"Kasischke's intelligence is most apparent in her syntactic control and pace, the way she gauges just when to make free verse speed up, or stop short, or slow down."—The New York Times Book Review
"Kasischke's poems are powered by a skillful use of imagery and the subtle, ingenious way she turns a phrase."—Austin American-Statesman
Laura Kasischke's poems have the same haunting qualities and truth as our most potent memories and dreams. Through ghostly voices, fragmented narratives, overheard conversations, songs, and prayers in language reminiscent of medieval lyrics converted into contemporary idiom, the poems in Space, In Chains create a visceral strangeness true to its own music.
So we found ourselves in an ancient place, the very
air around us bound by chains. There was
stagnant water in which lightning
was reflected, like desperation
in a dying eye. Like science. Like
a dull rock plummeting through space, tossing
off flowers and veils, like a bride. And
also the subway.
Speed under ground.
And the way each body in the room appeared to be
a jar of wasps and flies that day—but, enchanted,
like frightened children's laughter.
Laura Kasischke is the author of thirteen books of poetry and fiction. Her novel Her Life Before Her Eyes was adapted for the screen and starred Uma Thurman. A Guggenheim Fellow in 2009, she teaches in the MFA program at the University of Michigan.
Frightening in its confrontations with death that of a father and, eventually, of everything Kasischke's new work is also ambitiously exhilarating: everything in life and literature, it seems, could come before her eye, could end up in a poem "the terror of foxes./ And the children's hospital./ And the hangman's alarm clock," even "Lazarus, who surely never dared/ to lay his head/ on a pillow/ and close his eyes again." Known for her representations of mothers and teenagers in her poems and in her many novels, Kasischke now takes equal interest in illness and old age: rightly celebrated for her irregular, spiky, and intricately rhyming lines, Kasischke has now extended her interest (begun with her last book, Lilies Without) in the prose poem, using its fragments for recollection "the ridiculous cheerfulness of sunflowers, the drifting immemorial ashes of the blueprints, the soup grown cold." For all its length and all its lists, the volume ends up tightly, almost wrenchingly focused on the omnipresence of suffering, the fact of mortality and the persistence of grief. Some readers might call it melodramatic; many more ought to call it symphonic, perceptive, profound.