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This review is taken from PN Review 207, Volume 39 Number 1, September - October 2012.

Morphing Tongues valzhyna mort, Collected Body (Copper Canyon) $16
lucy hamilton, Stalker (Shearsman) £8.95
kate mcloughlin, Plums (Flipped Eye) £5.99

Collected Body is Valzhyna Mort's first collection composed entirely in English. Her American debut, Factory of Tears (2008), was met with considerable praise, published bilingually in Belarussian and English. Impressive accolades quickly followed: she was awarded a Lannan Literary Fellowship, singled out as 'a risen star of the international poetry world' (Irish Times), and she became the youngest poet to be featured on the cover of Poets & Writers magazine. The New Yorker went so far as to suggest that her work aims to establish 'a clear identity for Belarus and its language', a daunting task for a writer of any age. At their core, Mort's accomplishments are linguistic: Collected Body brutally transforms the body, memory and discernible sincerities of the self with exact and unexpected language. As the cover image (Rubens' Leda and the Swan) testifies, the book starts with the promise of metamorphosis:

On a bare tree - a red beast,
so still, it has become the tree.

Now it's the tree that prowls over the beast,
a cautious beast itself.

                                                          ('Preface')

Mort's poetic image cannibalises language in favour of possibility, and what it consumes is not meaning but naming, the clear realities that, like ancestry, disease and war, sew 'you to the soil like a button' or throw 'over your head - a noose' ('Aunt Anna'). The only limit known by the poet's alchemical dexterity is visible in her unwillingness to shore up permeable ...


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