by Major Jackson

The poems in Dorothea Lasky’s fifth poetry collection, Milk, tackle a range of dark subject matter, but these are not typical poetic narratives of loss. Instead Lasky abandons the notions of linearity and coherence, introducing possibilities of renewal out of instances of trauma by reaching for a musical phrasing all her own. Poems such as “Milking the rest of it,” “The Medical Institution,” “Fuck everyone” or “Kill Marry Fuck” combine a complex mix of tonalities: outrage, agony, and nostalgia for past love, all of which lead to moments of insight and despair: “desire is hopeless / If you can’t trust the windowsill / Then why put the flowers there / why not leave it bare.” The most arresting poems, such as “If you can’t trust the monitors” and “You thought,” awaken first in the ear and fully come alive through the rhythm and breath of the lines: “You thought I’d turn the dial up / But I didn’t / You thought I’d ring the sun the super / But I shouldn’t / You thought I’d unlock the beehive / But I wouldn’t / You thought I’d sing the dirge / But I couldn’t.” Don’t look for daintiness nor defeatism in Lasky’s weighty lines but rather fierce, quick-witted associations that make space for one woman’s power to name her world: “And if I am darker than light / Then let it be so.”

This review originally appeared in American Poets, Spring-Summer 2018.