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What the Right Hand Knows (Stahlecker Selections) Paperback – October 15, 2009
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Faulkner (I think it was Faulkner) said that one must write coldly to convey horror; "Chorus of Animals," about a childhood spent on a farm, slowly pans the yard and the barn and shows us "cats begging milk/coiled, wild and frightened,/stuffed in feedbags/and drowned in the pond" and ends with an auctioneer chanting and "a family broken in empty June." I had to read "The Anesthesiologist's Kiss" three times before I could move on from its haunting revelation. And a friend pulled the book away and got absorbed in a poem that begins: "What do we do when we hate our bodies?" One can't presume there is memoir here, but unquestionably there is truth.
Do not expect ornament. Expect a celebration of the body--naked.
Unlike so many first books, these poems generate their strength from refusing to say more than they need to. At their best, they answer Czeslaw Milosz's call for comprehensible poetry. The argument, there, is that incomprehensible poetry is a poetry of the lazy and privileged and prefers to hide in obscurity to maintain a position of loft and the social caste of the prophet. Whether Milosz is right or wrong, What the Right Hand Knows, all too well, is that it is exponentially more daring to say something in a language that has no time for incomprehensible peacocks.