What Animal

Poems by Oni Buchanan

"[These] 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."—Mark Levine, author of Enola Gay


"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

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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.
Page count: 96 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $17.95

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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.