Short-listed for the 2017 National Book Award for Poetry
The poems in The Book of Endings try to make sense of, or at least come to some kind of reckoning with absence - the death of the author's mother, the absence of the beloved, the absence of an accountable god, cicadas, the dead stars arriving, the dead moon aglow in the night sky.
Harrison (Displacement) reveals a psyche made strange through grieving in this luminous and musical collection. Here, the self is seen as other, an art object to behold at some degree of remove. "I test the reality of this slippery day/ already easing out of reach," Harrison writes. Each section of this book, which is framed as a triptych, represents part of the visual field Harrison is attempting to render in language. The poems are uniform in their delivery and use of the page as a canvas: "When the hay wain wound its way across the hill/ you failed to follow because winter meant/ fallow meant cold frozen fields." Like this winter imagery, the voice feels frozen in the same set of forms, either lyric fragments or uniformly lineated strophes. Harrison's self-imposed constraints startle only with their consistency: "I want to know how to strip the griefstorm from the flesh/ flense the spirit scrape it down to the clean bone unbreaking."Her formal and rhythmic strictures foreclose the possibility of transformation within the book's narrative arc, music, and thinking. The book's complete sequence cultivates a similar constancy when considering the relationship between text and reader. Is this a "form of prayer or arcane mathematics"? Harrison leaves readers to decide.