Academic journal article Hollins Critic

Bone Map

Academic journal article Hollins Critic

Bone Map

Article excerpt

Bone Map. By Sara Eliza Johnson. Minneapolis, Minn.: Milkweed Editions, 2013. $16.00 (pa.)

Johnson's first collection of poems, which won the 2013 National Poetry Series, reveals the poet's preoccupation with oppositions. Her poems explore light and darkness, knowledge and the unknown, violence and peace, intimacy and estrangement, that which predates birth and what remains after death. Johnson heightens her poetic diction with careful consideration of the question of human intervention in nature.

The poet approaches no theme lightly, while resisting the temptation of overindulgence. Grace, both the worldly and the divine, offsets the violence that permeates the text. One of the book's foremost poems, "Deer Rub," draws a natural scene cloaked in textured figurative language, a stag whose antlers are covered in velvet. The rain acts upon the deer "like a curator cleaning the bones // of a saint in the crypt beneath a church / at the end of a century, when the people // have begun to think of the bodies / as truly dead and unraiseable." Through her attention to detail and anthropomorphizing, Johnson ties the language surrounding this natural scene to that which is exclusively human.

Bone Map references the way remains are distributed humanly and naturally. …

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