Micro-Review: Jehanne Dubrow and Lindsay Lusby’s Still Life with Poem: Contemporary Natures Mortes in Verse

Conor Bracken

The best poems in Jehanne Dubrow and Lindsay Lusby’s Still Life with Poem: Contemporary Natures Mortes in Verse, an anthology of commissioned still life poems, take to heart the central focus of the genre: the object and its evocative properties. Some dive deeply into the object itself, finding the opulence inherent in a bottle of Stoli and a dead ferret, or the fear and fury of embodiment in the texture of pork livers, while others supply the problematic contexts that surrounds other everyday objects, juxtaposing a bowl of pears with three school-bound Nigerian girls sitting under a tree, or a medley of little boys’ toys with a cop and a dissident sparring in a park.

Not all poems in this anthology are built on the daring, leaping gesture that yokes together disparate things without trying to make them mean something beyond what is there, but many do. Many succeed in getting us to interrogate the blitheness of our relation to what surrounds us, making this book feel like a small museum of daily objects illuminated by the light of candescent, contemporary eyes so we might understand them (and ourselves) afresh.