The Bride of E

Mary Jo Bang's sixth book is a collection of delightful and disquieting poems. With complexity and humor, Bang tinkers with an essential ordering principle—the alphabet—in order to highlight the malleability, vast potential, and, perhaps, futility of language. Each poem offers new and strange methods of perception, and each is steeped in the texture of our days: culture, the language of family fragmented and refigured, the abstract and real ticking of time. The dailiness of these poems is ruptured by an intelligent and witty voice; the speaker imparts sharp emotional insights, as well as a frighteningly keen awareness. Throughout The Bride of E, the speaker confronts the arbitrary methods used to construct order and meaning in day-to-day life by interrogating the rituals, cultural icons, and patterns that form the existential condition. Yet at its core, this is a book of poems filled with a sonic intensity and emotional momentum, and ultimately we find an invaluable companion—a book to comfort us as we begin to recognize the solitary nature of existence and a guide to making and unmaking the boundaries of thought.

This book review originally appeared in American Poets.