What Animal

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The world in What Animal is filled with uncontainable data, a rush of experiences tumbling one after the other, experiences whose logic is only that they have happened, or cannot be determined as having happened or not. Images--often spliced together in rapid succession, each with a distinct complex of emotional and associative content--operate in "rhymes" of shape, sound, capacity for motion, texture, and number. Image patterns, sound patterns, syntactical shifts, and physical spaces recur in different forms and combinations, as if, could we only comprehend, the patterns would add up to something of galactic, even infinite, dimension.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Oni Buchanan's work undertakes an encounter with all that is desperately, and strictly, and unavoidably, patterned—all that, inside and outside us, will not cease to pattern us. From DNA to weather cycle, from the mechanics of bodily life, to the mechanics of the unknown puppet-master deity, it is an inquiry undergone with such urgency, accuracy and intensity one grows astonished, even a bit afraid. Kepler, Frankenstein, frequencies of all kinds (musical, erotic, neurophysical, biological, mathematical) merge to inflict their objective truths on the flesh and heart of this animal we call our 'human' being. At times it seems this poet is able to speak from a place closer to the dangerous heart of evolution than anyone has ever attempted, her exploration of the mechanical nature of desire and the desiring face of the inhuman arriving at a ferociously beautiful visionary understanding—hallucinatory, scientific, vatic, and filled with deep longing, sadness and pathos."--Jorie Graham, author of Never

"These poems are like road maps that have been creased and spilled on, so that the experience is one of rupture and loss of direction. The poems exude a knowledge of pain, physical and psychological, and the poems themselves are ways to extract and heal the pain quickly. The animal body, suffering."--Fanny Howe, author of Indivisible

"Oni Buchanan's stunning poems give voice to the animal that is bred by grief, a creature whose experience of private calamity can neither be named nor forgotten, and one who finds herself compelled to replay intricate dramas of estrangement and yearning. It's as though Buchanan's animal had been denied access to the code that would assure continuity between parent and child, present and future, desire and fulfillment, song and action. 'They send me out on an errand for the words,' she writes. Aching and beautiful and brutal and often self-brutalizing, the poems in What Animal are astonishing evidence of the clairvoyance of the bereaved."--Mark Levine, author of Enola Gay

"Odd and intriguing—brilliantly dexterous—and one wonders where this writer will go next.”--Library Journal

"[A] haunting and intelligent debut."--Boston Review

"Throughout What Animal, the speaker's compassion for the damaged animalia is remarkably striking. . . . Buchanan's creatures are ultimately irreconcilable to one another, and in these lacunae lies her agony: in the gap / that's where my crying is." It is her gift to us that, from her bereavement, from "the dirt" and the gaps, she constructs such a radically intelligent map of grief, both hers and ours.”--Verse

Library Journal
Contemporary Poetry Series winner Buchanan opens her debut collection with a collision between a bicycle and a brace of ducks. This is perhaps the clearest calamity of many that befall her animal subjects, who are prodded, dissected, and turned on their sides. The most memorable piece here may be "The Guinea Pig and the Green Balloon," in which the animal narrates his bad experience with the "lucent majesty" that appears "in a gown of lettuce leaves." Other poems offer, in place of a clear narrative, a barrage of images that suggest biological or mechanical disaster, like a badly cloned animal. Buchanan has a wonderful ear-she is an accomplished classical pianist as well as a poet-but once she gets going, she can start to sound like a poetry-generating machine, with one poem blending anxiously into the next. Readers enticed by her visual patterns-such as a sky divided into quadrants, echoing the kite that disappears into it-will keep reading, though some may balk at pigs chanting prime numbers in four digits to themselves. The work is odd and intriguing-brilliantly dexterous-and one wonders where this writer will go next. Recommended for larger poetry collections.-Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine LLP Law Lib., New York Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820325675
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 10/27/2003
  • Series: The Contemporary Poetry Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.24 (d)

Meet the Author

Oni Buchanan, a Master of Music candidate in piano performance at the New England Conservatory of Music, also has an MFA degree from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her poems have appeared in such publications as Verse, Conduit, and Fence.
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Table of Contents

The Ducks and the Bicycle
Report from the Congregation of Invisibles 3
The Winter of the Primary Things 5
Tide Chart 6
Minutes from the Tuesday Meeting 8
The Only Yak in Batesville, Virginia 9
The Sheep Who Fastened the Sky to the Ground 10
Sweets to the Sweet 11
Mid-Afternoon 12
Synodic Month 13
Uncertainty Principle 14
Reliquary 17
The Bearing 18
The Last Crwth Player 20
The Rescue Lullaby 21
The Guinea Pig and the Green Balloon 22
The Walk 24
The Large 25
The Girls 29
Quota 30
Blood Weight 32
Cinch Song 34
The Term 35
Room 40 37
The Dusk Haruspicy 40
Night Shift 45
Cryptography 47
The Foist Grid 49
Queen Regent Queen Regnant 51
Hourglass 53
Transporter 55
Dry 67
Rent 68
In the Third Hand 70
What Animal 72
Pastoral 74
Land Transaction on the Grass Swathe 76
Independence Day 78
Tercets for the End of Time 80
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