'The Exchange': The Book 'For You'

Poet Tess Taylor reviews Sophie Cabot Black's book of poems, The Exchange.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now, a review of a collection of poetry by Sophie Cabot Black. It's called "The Exchange." And while Black might not be a household name, critic Tess Taylor says she is a poet's poet, Admired and widely read among her peers. Here's her review of "The Exchange."

TESS TAYLOR: Take it with you on a bus, to a hospital, to wait in line at a bank. You could take "The Exchange" nearly anywhere and have it speak to you. It wouldn't talk about the place you are exactly, but it would talk about places where things become other things; where death becomes life, where waiting becomes impatience, where money becomes an abstraction, and where what we think we know becomes what we can no longer fathom.

A great deal of this book about exchanges is about Black losing a dear friend, the poet Jason Schinder, to cancer. But some of it is about prostitution, or about a banking facility in New Jersey that processes investments by algorithm, or the monumental exchange between Abraham and God. Abraham offers his son to God as a sacrifice but God, at the last minute, doesn't require it.

So what is traded and how does the transfer take place? In fact, part of the mystery in reading Black's poems is wondering where exactly exchange happens. These poems remind us of the ways we each pass through the stations of a life. In doing this, they capture the wonder of trying to inhabit life's shapes at all.

As Black writes in the poem "Afterlife": Ahead a color best called white in a room that appears unlike any other. Everything used to get there will fall away. And to look back is to watch the child lie down on the floor in the exact outline and angle I once was to see what I saw. To take on the precise edge of how it ends is also where it begins.

With precision, Black's poems skirt great mysteries.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: Sophie Cabot Black's poetry collection is called the "The Exchange." Our reviewer, Tess Taylor, teaches writing at UC Berkeley. Her poetry collection, "The Forage House," will be published next month.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.