Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What I'm Reading: Pathogenesis

I picked up Pathogenesis by Peggy Munson at AWP at the Switchback Books table. I wasn't familiar with either the poet or the press, but I'm glad I stopped when the little square of a book caught my eye. (The book measures 6" x 6" and feels great in the hand.)

The core of the book emerges from Munson's life experiences suffering from Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), a disease I must admit I was unfamiliar with until I read the book. The book is grounded in the poet's body, a body in pain, a body in constant battle. This could easily have become they type of book that keeps me reading just by the sheer unusualness of the subject matter, and yet the poems rise above the subject matter into art.

Munson's ear is finely tuned. She makes great leaps with word choice and syntax. The poems almost spring from the page there is so much energy entrapped within. The book ends with the title poem, a long sequence of ten sections. Here are some favorite lines.

From "Pathogenesis" Section II:
"I imagine the desert landscape: nuclear waste sold to Indian reservations,
bomb tests, thievery of the vastness. And think: whose daughter imploded here,

which star metastasized as she wished upon her body, hand flat on chest?"

From "Pathogenesis" Section VI:
".... Still, the wolf incisors put the red in fairy tales, and blood spills / over childhood myths of fairness."

From "Pathogenesis" Section IX:
"I have grown as permeable as a night of rotting irises, // my blood-brain barrier a colander for all the poisoned green."

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