Human dark with sugar

by Brenda Shaughnessy

Paper Book, 2008






Port Townsend, Wash. : Copper Canyon Press, c2008.


"Brenda Shaughnessy's Human Dark with Sugar revisits and modernizes the classic themes that have inspired generations of poets: Love. Loss. Sex. Rejection. Pain. Time. Exploring the strange wonder that is perception, Shaughnessy pressures language and holds nothing back; her poems encompass emotional states such as tenderness, devotion, resignation, bitterness, and rage."--Jacket.

User reviews

LibraryThing member chellerystick
The poetry in this volume is tentative with sound, touching an association and then backing away. That does not mean it is not aware of sound; for example: consider the word "snownova," a kind of explosion by slow suffocation. One thing she does occasionally does stylistically is take a rhyme or a
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word, then slowly spin it round: end, mind, band, hard, understand. Stick, stuck, sticking. Fire, form, first, fraud, fair. Beauty, boozy, daisy.

The poems include themes of the body, food, sleep, and romantic completion. I find that I prefer the ones where she uses a more personal narrative touch and a more spare style; some of her extended analogies seem a little ungrounded to me. I prefer "You Too, Not Just Me" to "Replaceable Until You're Not." However, she has some lovely surprises in her phrasing. I also really liked her sequenced prose poem "This Loved Body," and many prose poems leave me cold, so this is saying something.

"The message is: /there is never enough/,

though we celebrate the hoax of boundlessness.
Celestial bodies, like our own, perish as if they'd scrimped

on light because they had to pay for it,
and no longer could. And froze like so many little match girls.

That's the brutal truth about the heavens."
--from "Spring in Space: A Lecture"

I think there is a great deal of passion in this book and I will be very interested to see what number three contains. Highly recommended, especially if you like Lisel Mueller, Adrienne Rich, and maybe E.E. Cummings.
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LibraryThing member b.masonjudy
Brenda Shaughnessy's collection is my first foray into her poetry. After reading primarily narrative poetry Shaughnessy's work came off as a bit too self-consciously academic but as I sat longer with the poems I appreciated her sense of intertextuality and playfulness with form and language.
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There's a lot of humor, depth, and care in this work and I'm sure it's one I will return to again soon.
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National Book Critics Circle Award (Finalist — Poetry — 2008)


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