The “exquisite and haunting” (Booklist) collection of poems built around the language and mystique of American captivity narratives in which Sheck enters the vivid life we live inside our own minds and selves, and takes us into the mysterious underside of consciousness and selfhood.
The squat, long-lined poems of Sheck's fifth collection meditate on American captivity narratives stories popular in the late 17th century, such as Mary Rowlandson's A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, often about abduction by Native Americans as metaphors for the limitations of consciousness and the poetry that tries to render it. These narratives are directly addressed in the 17 "Removes," a term taken from Rowlandson's book. Elsewhere, Sheck (Black Series) references other singularly American figures, including Dickinson, Stevens, William James and Emerson. Sheck relishes the "slow conversion of myself into nothingness," a necessary (and often violent) step toward understanding "this chain of feelings by which we mean (if it is that) a self." These poems at times seem to court vagueness words such as "scatter," "broken," and "elsewhere" are among Sheck's most precise descriptive terms. Some readers may find that Sheck exhausts her themes and the time from which they originate; modernity appears infrequently, and when it does in the form of "a computer screen candescing," the human genome and one "marketing director" the effect is jarring. Throughout, however, Sheck's long lines sustain an elegant uncertainty, and her fractured syntax calls both Dickinson and Gerard Manley Hopkins to mind: "The seconds slant and coarse with split-asunder."