The Zoo at Night

The Zoo at Night

The Zoo at Night

The Zoo at Night

Synopsis

Winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry, Susan Gubernat's The Zoo at Night reflects on the dark side of love, death, the family romance, carnality, and lofty aspirations with subtle craft. She thinks of her poems as "night thoughts" resembling nocturnes, in which "a bit of light leaks in."

Both experimental and classic, Gubernat's poems combine formal and free verse elements. A (mostly) unrhymed sonnet sequence seeks to recall the world of a pre-digital childhood when physical objects--tactile, mechanical--took on totemic import and magical significance. Other poems echo the Rilkean principle that poetry can be empathetic by looking outward at the "thingness" of the world.

In these works of love and longing, Gubernat enters through the doors of craft and exits with feeling.

Excerpt

The woman, wool-capped, filthy, knelt beside
a man asleep at the curb, so tenderly—
well, what can I say but that I envied
them in my full belly. I’ve never wrapped
my chest in newspaper or begged for change
with a Styrofoam cup or slept on the street.
And I welled up with self-pity: I’m safe,
I’m warm, I’m alone. My donor’s card reads:
Take the whole body, the body entire,
leave nothing behind for burial. the stone couples
lean against each other, and in the tomb
a queen’s dust merges with her king’s—the sweet,
the bitter, an apothecary’s mixture
to salve the horror of eternity.

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