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David Morley, Enchantment, Carcanet, $15.95 (paper)
Enchantment is the final installment of a trilogy that David Morley introduced with 2002’s Scientific Papers. Like its predecessors, Enchantment combines the interests of a naturalist—Morley trained as a zoologist—with themes and language derived from Morley’s Romani heritage. Though less overtly experimental than The Invisible Kings—the second installment, which arrived in 2007—Enchantment exhibits a range of formal interests, especially in the recursive properties of anaphora and the pantoum, as well as an increasingly Swinburnian phonemic playfulness: “Cockerels were volleying vowels from valley to valley.” In another poem, this style seems to echo in aural effects what poets as ancient as Lucretius have imagined in matter, “particles / that swerve through this under-space like quiet comets.” Cognate with such imagery of dissolution and recombination is the book’s focus on the ongoing history of the Roma and their language, which have both long depended on their readiness to transform. Inevitably, the book’s catalogue of particles includes ashes—recalling both the genocides of World War II and Romani funeral custom. But, in this world of quasi-fantasy, where historical suffering can be reclaimed through folklore, the emphasis is on restitution. The book’s emblematic fairy tale shows a blacksmith reviving a girl by working her ashes on an anvil, explaining, “Love’s the craft of it.” The love of language displayed throughout these poems makes Enchantment live up to its name; its limits are often merely the limits of charm.
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