PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Kei Millerthe Fat Black Woman
In Praise of the Fat Black Woman & Volume

(PN Review 241)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Next Issue Sasha Dugdale, Intimacy and other poems Eugene Ostashevsky, The Feeling Sonnets Nyla Matuk, The Resistance Alex Wylie, Democratic Rags Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Two poems from the archive
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review Blog

This review is taken from PN Review 134, Volume 26 Number 6, July - August 2000.

AN EMBRACE OF FAILURE ANNE MICHAELS, Poems (Alfred A. Knopf) $25.00

Anne Michaels is a geologist of memory. On the surface she likes to use geologic similes and metaphors to explain how things are: 'A family is a study in plate-tectonics, flow-folding. / Something inside shifts...' Michaels says:

If cut open, memory would resemble
a cross-section of the earth's core,
a table of geographical time.

But everything isn't as certain as these scientific analogies appear to indicate. The scientific diagnosis is a safe haven whose safety becomes extremely problematic the closer its premises are questioned. Then, what you end up finding is a state of extreme uncertainty, and uncertainty which can only be accepted - embraced - not analyzed, and never relied on. Take the simple phrase, 'Father Time, Einstein never wore a watch.' On the one hand, Michaels projects Einstein as the hieratic setter of time standards. But this fixity cuts against itself (especially if you bring in what we know about Einstein's ethics) with the suggestion that 'Father Time', knowing all, acquiesces to time's comic uncertainty, its tragic relativity. From 'Rain Makes Its Own Night': 'This is order, this clutter that fills the clearings between us, / clothes clinging to chairs, your shoes in a muddy grip.'

Having diagnosed this teetering state of continual acceptance/non-acceptance, Michaels chafes at accepting it. Self-consciously, art becomes a way to cut the knot; from a poem, significantly enough, on Tycho Brahe and Kepler called 'A Lesson from the Earth':

...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image