The Anti-Grief

The Anti-Grief

by Marianne Boruch


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What to do with the everything crossing one’s path? Everything for and against, upside down and inside out, grief first then its dogged shadow life, which could be joy. In The Anti-Grief, Marianne Boruch challenges our conceptions of memory, age, and time, revealing the many layers of perception and awareness. A book of meditations, these poems venture out into the world, jump their synapse, tie and untie knots, and misbehave. From Emily Dickinson’s chamber pot to meat-eating plants, from an angry octopus to crowds of salmon swimming upstream, Boruch’s imagery blurs the line between natural and supernatural. And of course there is grief—working through grief, getting over grief, living with grief, and in these magnificent poems, anti-grief.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Boruch refuses to see more than there is in things—but her patience, her willingness to wait for the film of familiarity to slip, allows her to see what is there with a jeweler's sense of facet and flaw.”—Poetry

“Boruch places the exceptional within the mundane and the intimate within the universal, and above all highlights the present moment without ever losing sight of a broader context in which now is just one moment among many.” —Publishers Weekly

“She sees and considers with intensity. Her poems often give fresh examples of how rare and thrilling it can be to notice.”—The Washington Post

“Boruch displays a quietly gymnastic intellect in the examinations of art, the body, and the human condition.”—American Poets
“Her approach isn’t meant to fix or crystallize her ideas in any hard and fast light, but rather to present the music of her thinking... Boruch brings in personal memory and philosophical speculation, infusing much of this writing with slightly skewed skepticism and rueful uncertainty about one’s ability to be absolute about anything.”—Trinity University Press

Library Journal


In her tenth collection (after Eventually One Dreams the Real Thing), Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award winner Boruch offers a ready intelligence, deep aesthetic sense, and wordsmith's ability to compose poems rich with layers of meaning. Like all good poets, she has a unique way of looking at the world ("The child, the miniature/ old person waiting in her, was worry"). Her subjects range from the famous (e.g., Amelia Earhart) to life's transitory nature ("Did I tell you? my grandfather sings from the grave") to interspecies communication ("The whale might, she might vaguely recognize/ human cries of those drowning// as some distant tribe of fin/ and blowhole"). In poems inspired by art, Boruch often exhibits a strikingly modern sensibility. For instance, "In Durer's Engraving," the speaker wonders, "Still Adam looks at her—/ curious or just wary, was love/ invented yet?" VERDICT Throughout, Boruch easily folds storytelling into her poems and makes deep emotional connections, as when Dorothy Wordsworth's life segues into that of the poet's grandmother. Repetition is occasionally overused, and the poet loses focus in the long poem "Keats Is Coughing," which compares visits to Rome and Alaska, but overall this is a collection not to be missed.—Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781556595684
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Publication date: 10/08/2019
Pages: 96
Sales rank: 1,207,883
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.40(d)

Read an Excerpt


Day after day of rain. A ticket straight to
the mild-mannered hell of rethinking whatever,

the drive to Econo-Foods: not a lot of grief in that.
You need staples-bread, rice, eggs.
Here's a list: almonds, yogurt, all the little
anti-griefs add up.

Did I tell you? my grandfather sings from the grave.
They have my old Philco here.
I know all about your world of godawful and too bad.

I keep driving. In rain. Some luck required. Stop light.
Flashy cars on both sides playing radios too loud.
Ear damage! I used to shout out the window,
my boy in the front seat trying hard to shrink, not to know
who is that crazy at the wheel.

Grandfather likes saying: what? Half-deaf even now.

Half a lot of things, anytime. Half, what gives?
giving way. If there is a we or a you or an I finally.
He'd cup an ear if he had an ear.

So it is, the first anti-grief, a feather he picked up.
My childhood, walking with
the oldest man I ever, 1874 his
start date. Alarm and Should Have, two roads
he would not cross, and Consequence
a street over, he ignored completely. Always
an eye out for the great
small peculiar.

A feather. Sometimes handed to me. Or he'd
oil a clock with it right off the curb.
Into a pocket.


in exile, ganged up in this greenhouse of living ache
and want, shabby glassed-in room with a door
propped open under a scribbled please, keep locked
underlined times two. Who wrote that, what

guardian of the wordless deep to
abet these bullies on their bright faded stalks
breathing in my carbon, giving back
oxygen. The invisible exchange-love that first.

But trays and trays of dirt growing miniature time bombs,
tiny eyelids with a clamshell look, eyelashes if
brushed even slightly, they go for me. One clamps up
quick as I pull away. I'm its feed me right now, I'm prey

then a total wash-out, too big for its little, a tease.
Slowly it re-opens a wired-up watch on this ocean of
sunlit muggy air, me swimming through my so important
afternoon to supper, to sleep. What to dream at night-

who knows how ruthless a small empty creature can be
to swallow all anything that happens by, to give it
an afterworld, a shot, a slow dissolve.
I have eyelids. I have eyelashes that shut down tight.

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