What Animal
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What Animal


Title Details

Pages: 96

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 10/27/2003

ISBN: 9-780-8203-2567-5

List Price: $20.95

Related Subjects

POETRY / American / General

What Animal


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  • Description
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The world in What Animal is filled with uncontainable data, a rush of experiences tumbling one after the other, experiences whose logic is only that they have happened, or cannot be determined as having happened or not. Images—often spliced together in rapid succession, each with a distinct complex of emotional and associative content—operate in "rhymes" of shape, sound, capacity for motion, texture, and number. Image patterns, sound patterns, syntactical shifts, and physical spaces recur in different forms and combinations, as if, could we only comprehend, the patterns would add up to something of galactic, even infinite, dimension.

Oni Buchanan's work undertakes an encounter with all that is desperately, and strictly, and unavoidably, patterned—all that, inside and outside us, will not cease to pattern us. From DNA to weather cycle, from the mechanics of bodily life, to the mechanics of the unknown puppet-master deity, it is an inquiry undergone with such urgency, accuracy and intensity one grows astonished, even a bit afraid. Kepler, Frankenstein, frequencies of all kinds (musical, erotic, neurophysical, biological, mathematical) merge to inflict their objective truths on the flesh and heart of this animal we call our 'human' being. At times it seems this poet is able to speak from a place closer to the dangerous heart of evolution than anyone has ever attempted, her exploration of the mechanical nature of desire and the desiring face of the inhuman arriving at a ferociously beautiful visionary understanding—hallucinatory, scientific, vatic, and filled with deep longing, sadness and pathos.

—Jorie Graham, author of Never

These poems are like road maps that have been creased and spilled on, so that the experience is one of rupture and loss of direction. The poems exude a knowledge of pain, physical and psychological, and the poems themselves are ways to extract and heal the pain quickly. The animal body, suffering.

—Fanny Howe, author of Indivisible

Oni Buchanan's stunning poems give voice to the animal that is bred by grief, a creature whose experience of private calamity can neither be named nor forgotten, and one who finds herself compelled to replay intricate dramas of estrangement and yearning. It's as though Buchanan's animal had been denied access to the code that would assure continuity between parent and child, present and future, desire and fulfillment, song and action. 'They send me out on an errand for the words,' she writes. Aching and beautiful and brutal and often self-brutalizing, the poems in What Animal are astonishing evidence of the clairvoyance of the bereaved.

—Mark Levine, author of Enola Gay

Odd and intriguing—brilliantly dexterous—and one wonders where this writer will go next.

Library Journal

Throughout What Animal, the speaker's compassion for the damaged animalia is remarkably striking. . . . Buchanan's creatures are ultimately irreconcilable to one another, and in these lacunae lies her agony: in the gap / that's where my crying is." It is her gift to us that, from her bereavement, from "the dirt" and the gaps, she constructs such a radically intelligent map of grief, both hers and ours.


[A] haunting and intelligent debut.

Boston Review


SEBA Book Award, Southeast Booksellers Association

About the Author/Editor

ONI BUCHANAN, a Master of Music candidate in piano performance at the New England Conservatory of Music, also has an MFA degree from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her poems have appeared in such publications as Verse, Conduit, and Fence.