24 Pages and other poems

Lisa Fishman’s sixth volume continues the pastoral approach established in her previous work: “how are you sleeping // like a radish in the cooling nights.” Fishman’s observations are informed by oneness with the ecosystem and depict an environment that is merged with that ecosystem, rather than personified within it: “first phallus popped up: asparagus / in the land of the rabbits / or is the body a plant / with nerves that are fern.” A discernible human narrative of rustic labor, Amtrak journeys, and fairy tale-like memories (“James said the owl was a baker’s daughter / & Chuck called the yellow moth Blue”) are also at the heart of the book. At times Fishman evokes Roethke, and specifically his poem “Root Cellar,” in lines like “the dirt is breathing all the time too,” although where Roethke is sinister, Fishman is laconic, witty, and faintly elegiac. In quoting Iris Murdoch’s line “The page was folded into a perfect dart,” Fishman may be describing her work’s effect: neither overdetermined nor aggressive, but where it lands “Could be a stone’s throw / from the whole truth.

This book review originally appeared in American Poets, Spring-Summer 2015.