Joe's Reviews > With Deer

With Deer by Aase Berg
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's review
Mar 25, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: poetry
Read in February, 2009

The excellent thing about this book is that it’s gothic, overwrought, and ridiculous (decadent? Baroque?) cover to cover. These poems don't live in a hum-drum world that's sometimes, melodramatically, punctured by the horrible. They live in an inverted world where things without shape or skin are devouring each other all the time.

What seems initially absurd--

"The gorge is swarming with guinea pigs."

--taps into weirdly fundamental anxieties

"...She gives birth and groans, she moans and bleeds. Everywhere the membranes, everywhere their bloated puff bellies. We run with the heart in the tunnel, you and I, while nervous systems break down behind us, while the amniotic fluid surges in the pumping, pulsing chasm..."

Where some prose poems have fun transforming one thing into another--here's a turtle--Poof--it's a hat!--these seem to confront us with the liminal. It's figures seem mutated, change is painful, uncontrollable--

"...His hands sank into her as if into clay, which amorphously and muddily enclosed in his soft stumps. The girl could no longer be distinguished from the whining animal. The creature got up on its legs and wobbled across the slippery floor. Again a kind of moan rose toward the brown skies..."

The language plugged right into my animal brain. Couldn't put it down.

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Danika and here's some thoughts on w/deer:

i thought this book was pretty awesome. i generally save 5 stars for poets who make me feel transcendent and really brutalize the heart and mind strings (at least for me) like D.B.-Q. and Lerner and such, or this would've gotten 5. let's call it a 4.5.

i am really wishing i could quote some stuff for this, but again, no book. i'll probably actually buy this one for my collection eventually. i remember telling my boyfriend something about how i really enjoyed the way the book was overwrought and strange in a way that made it more apt to comment on contemporary environment and violence and environmental violence than something that was more, well, regular. there are all of these feral, wild animals lurking around, there is NATURE, and even as we walk around trying to be "civilized" or something it is there creeping around and fucking terrifying if you really think about it. Aase Berg is REALLY thinking about it. i loved the terror and violence just living in the speaker and his seal lady and everywhere in the landscape of the book.

i also felt the opposite way about the threads holding this book together than i felt about the Fuller book. this shit is tightly wrought and bound. the voice and sense of it never falter, whether your reading one of the longer prose sections, a short one, or one of the few lined poems. that is hard for me to do for 80 pages, and i dig it when a poet can do that. carry me and have me hooked the whole book through on the project and the construction of its world.

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