Hard Child

The self is a shifting yet sharply felt thing in Natalie Shapero's poetry collection Hard Child. The title refers to the poet's own pregnancy, loosely discussed in several poems throughout the collection, exploring how a child changes one's impressions of the world. Shapero (No Object) is the opposite of a sentimentalist, however. Sentiments abound but not through any direct, self-serious reflection. Rather, Shapero uses a distinct style of stream-of-consciousness, playful interrogation and mordant wit. Her style is oblique and sometimes outlandish in its levity, yet in its sum, inimitable and strangely touching.

Whenever Shapero's freewheeling imagination alights on kernels of truth, the effects are sobering. "Of the cruelty ringing the earth,/ I am a portion," the poet declares in the disturbing poem "Passing and Violence." Other proclamations, such as in "Was This the Face," are likewise startling and refreshing in their boldness: "God is abusive toward all His children,/ and also He hardly ever comes around!" Shapero savors the grit of her own wit. Occasionally, the hard intelligence in her voice breaks on moments of genuine beauty. For example, of humanity's dubious conception of heaven, the poet writes, "I sleep/ against it and wake with its imprint on me." In pursuing the realities of human experience, both in dreams and death, Shapero produces a strikingly authentic voice, as if truth, however unpalatable, were the only thing that could save the world. Alternately hilarious and bleak, hopeful and fatalistic, Hard Child surprises with its uncanny emotional range. --Scott Neuffer, freelance journalist, poet and fiction author

Powered by: Xtenit