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This review is taken from PN Review 215, Volume 40 Number 3, January - February 2014.

Fevered by Legible Light jennifer militello, Body Thesaurus (Tupelo Press) US$16.95

After two full collections and a chapbook, Jennifer Militello is becoming a major force in American poetry. Her first book, Flinch of Song, won the Tupelo Press First Book Award; Body Thesaurus - her new collection from Tupelo - was named by Marilyn Hacker as a finalist for the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award. She has received several important awards, grants and fellowships, and her work has appeared in The Paris Review, The New Republic and American Poetry Review.

In Body Thesaurus Militello experiments with expression to liberate it from orthodox trammels. In her work there is a good deal of unorthodox American. She taunts language with its extreme limitations, but this combines with in-loveness with euphony. In Dylan Thomas euphony could exist for its own sake; in Militello it is a case of using sound to express complex estrangement. It makes for a language which is '… fevered / by legible light', in her own memorable phrase. She sings darkness; she sings mortality and despair:

I have seen the silhouettes that bring me heavens,
I have seen my torso, in hours of torn,
ripple laden with captivity, rent with cries
and the sky's white sheet drying in the wind […]
                                        (from 'Personality State: Persephone')

The dreamlike picture this creates is gripping, the balance of the line impressive, the word-choices intriguing. The ambiguous use of 'torn' - a conventional enough adjective or participle but used here as a noun, a characteristic trope of Militello's work - is compelling. It takes its lead from Thomas, perhaps, ...


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