Collected Body

Valzhyna Mort's second book of poetry released in the U.S. (and her first collection composed entirely in English) is saturated with violence and desire. "Often what I need is an even darker darkness." Mort writes in the poem "Mocking Bird Hotel." Moving between a spare poetic line and a prosaic narrative form, Mort deftly navigates through difficult emotional landscapes populated with an array of characters, and travels from the U.S. to her native Belarus. The work in this collection is urgent, direct, and often reflective on the relationships between family members— although the poems are haunted with death and scenes from the past. A long multi-section prose poem "Aunt Anna" centers the book, and powerfully so. Mort writes, in the first section of that poem,

 Death, like a spoiled child to whom nobody ever 
       said "no," was already licking
the cream off their sleeping lives, leaving
       behind the bland crust of their bodies.

This book review originally appeared in American Poets.