Magdalena Zurawski

Winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award in 2016

[A Space For A Chorus Comes With Sunlight]

Who in winter might
remember spring
can help us escape.

What I make
is easy to forget.

Grey words break, but
the dog with his ears shorn
appears like a lamb.

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Jennifer Moxley on Magdalena Zurawski

"Most of the day I feel things. Nobody / pays me, I just do it . . . ." What more perfect capsule of the lyric poet's dilemma under the spirit of capitalism? It is this dilemma that animates Magdalena Zurawski's Companion Animal, which chronicles a redemptive, if grief-strewn, lyric journey back to poetry after an exile in prose. Beautifully continuing what was so engaging about the work of New American poets such as Jack Spicer and Robert Creeley, these poems are hyper-aware of their contradictions, yet completely emotionally vulnerable. They refuse cynicism and pretense, and such a refusal explodes any possibility of intellectual distancing or emotional hiding. Expert simplicity everywhere astonishes: "Who in winter might / remember spring / can help us escape," begins a pastoral which ends with a dog standing in for a lamb. There are plenty of dogs here. They watch the poet closely and ground her in routine. They keep her from losing herself in lofty heights or dangerous lows. But at the heart of these poems is a strong sense of a person addressing us, inviting us into the occasion of the poem. This person is in love with the world, yet frustrated by its injustices. Poetry—even as failed politics—is the term that makes peace between them. Not a passive peace, but a truce ever under interrogation. Zurawski's poems do what lyric poetry does best: they help us understand our emotions. Perhaps this does not solve anything, but at least it can make us feel as if we're "not dying anymore."

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