I don't read poetry as often as I probably should, and so it feels like a gift to have received Devorah Major's latest poetry collection And Then We Became (City Lights Books; 2016) in the final days of a hand-wringing, nightmare-drenched election cycle.
Why, just today, my husband kicked me in the shin in the early morning hours as he dreamed of chasing down a giant rat: Jung might have said that the rat symbolized he of the very good brain that's said a lot of things, but I digress. Dipping into And Then We Became -- a slim volume with a beautiful cover, with the geometric look of galaxies flying across a sky between sunset and twilight -- offers a quietly righteous respite from the muck of election-related opinion, emotional triggers, and binary arguments on a constant social media loop.
Even the title of the book is a relief. And Then We Became is a reminder, a mantra to repeat daily; we are all in the process of becoming. Look around. How many people do you know that have arrived? What does it mean to arrive, to have somehow become what you were always meant to be, when even the universe, as Major points out in the book's final poem "Cosmology Meditation #2," is "omnicentric infinitely / expanding in all directions"? Nothing is set in stone, as much as Americans might like to believe (myself included) in the certainty of faith, rationality, to-do lists, and retail therapy.
the cosmologist said
is creating itself
Other poems in the collection travel between celebration and mourning, on a range of subjects: family, culture, social justice, ambiguity. The effect is equal measures celebratory and sorrowful. You aren't going to find answers in these poems. Only reminders that we are all searching, living, breathing, struggling, dying. Some are born into legacies of racial and gender oppression. Others survive physical ailments: strokes, cancer, mass shootings. You know, the stuff of modern life in America.