Nothing / they said

David A. Moody, University of South Florida


This collection of poetry uses the context of a family environment to explore lack and loss, applying these concepts in their usual negative sense, but also drawing out their positive implications of potential and gain. Each of the collection's three sections is introduced by a traditional Japanese poem translated to emphasize its aspects of emptiness as shown through brevity, structure, and content. The poems contained in each section exemplify events of defeat, debt, and aimlessness that can punctuate the family lifecycle. In each poem, loss is reinterpreted in positive terms: in "Tobacco Manifesto," debt leads to a profit; in "Interviewing Ernest," a defeat color-blinds the narrator, and that damage expands who and how the narrator loves. Recurring content-fire and celestial bodies, father-son relationships, and seven variations on "Lines Cut Out of a Poem on Abortion that I Didn't Want to Finish"-further tie the sections together. The overall approach to the collection's themes, styles, and influences are addressed in the introduction, concluding in a discussion of translation's influence on each aspect. Three conflicts are present in the structure of the poems-narrativity vs. lyricism, formal complexity vs. simplicity, and familiarity vs. unfamiliarity-and those conflicts are addressed in terms of predictability, resulting in a collection that works not only to reshape the reader's definitions of lack and loss through its content, but also to let readers experience for themselves how unpredictable outcomes simultaneously are a failure of expectation and the gain of something new.