*Winner of the William Carlos Williams Award*
*National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist*
*Included in The New York Times Best Poetry of 2016*
*Named one of The Washington Post's Best Poetry Collections of 2016*
* Longlisted for the National Book Award*
“Blackacre” is a centuries-old legal fiction—a placeholder name for a hypothetical estate. Treacherously lush or alluringly bleak, these poems reframe their subjects as landscape, as legacy—a bereavement, an intimacy, a racial identity, a pubescence, a culpability, a diagnosis. With a surveyor’s keenest tools, Youn marks the boundaries of the given, what we have been allotted: acreage that has been ruthlessly fenced, previously tenanted, ploughed and harvested, enriched and depleted. In the title sequence, the poet gleans a second crop from the field of Milton’s great sonnet on his blindness: a lyric meditation on her barrenness, on her own desire—her own struggle—to conceive a child. What happens when the transformative imagination comes up against the limits of unalterable fact?
This third collection from Youn (Ignatz) finds her tightly yet playfully interrogating inheritance and legacy, real and fictional landscapes, and the particular bodily experience of a woman hoping to conceive. The title refers to a legal term denoting a type of fictional entity, a hypothetical real estate; Youn's legal background (she was a practicing lawyer for years) emerges in her attention to detail and ability to parse concepts. Formally and syntactically diverse, the poems often portray a mature, professional woman wrestling with the philosophy and psychology of all that that life entails. Word play abounds ("a statement// of intent, of well-meant/ amends; an acquiescent an-/ athema in its seam-/ less unseen net"), as do references to working life and an intellectualized distancing when dealing with corporeality ("one day they showed me a dark moon ringed/ with a bright nimbus on a swirling gray screen/ they called it my last chance for neverending life/ but the next day it was gone"). Throughout, Youn's lawyerly analyses of life, of herself, her feelings, and of language cut through the poetic to a place that lies triangulated between poetry, lyric memoir, and textual analysis. It is in that latter element that Youn deconstructs the nature of possession and boundedness; in the act of self-claiming, Youn wonders, did she make herself "into a resource that was bounded, and, therefore, exhaustible?"