Elizabeth Willis
Wesleyan University Press, $22.95 (cloth)

From the list poem to the sonnet, the ode to the elegy to the invective, from “oily noise” to “leaf traffic,” Willis’s fifth collection masterfully offers a direct treatment of the thing in all of its indirect taxonomies. Here is a poetry unafraid to salute our democratic ideals and civic institutions while simultaneously showing the scars they carry and the foundation of conquest they’re precariously perched atop; a poetry of scope, which can in a line or two zoom in on the atom, on Adam naming all the plants and animals, on the atom bomb, and the work of art in the age of digital interaction; and a poetry that is at once humorous and personable, as bewildered in the backyard as it is anchored in the open field. Within Address, when Willis says “I” she is also saying “we”—all of us, singing the scope of the self, from the digits on the hand to those on the house, the address of home, what it means to address another, to dress for a party, or apply dressing to a wound. Everywhere in this book—as in her other work—beauty abounds: sonic beauty, syntactic beauty, imagistic beauty, but never without revealing its Janus-faced other, never without admitting that an afternoon strolling in the garden here equals ten thousand hours down the mineshaft over there. And to get from one to the other, from any one and to any other, is to address the civic and the self, the country and the continent, the word and the world, or as Willis succinctly puts it, “Your footprint on the planet / pinned down by outer space.”