5.16.2008

Linda Benninghoff
The Spaces Between Things
Erbacce Presss

In this chapbook, Linda Benninghoff is writing a lyrical elegy.

I believe there is a way in which a friend who has the peculiar and difficult "wisdom" of death (is it really point of view) thrust upon him or her becomes suddenly the finest solace to the writer-in-the-world who is truly suffering. This is a book which dwells in that relationship, situation, misery.

I have been teaching too much this semester not to have "suggestions" as my first impulse upon reading these poems. There is a certain narrator's knowledge that needs trimming back, a reach for what they used to call "easy" lyricism which seems inappropriate. Mostly this is because the first poems in the collection have an unmistakably important whisper, "our walks / fell outside time, / protected" and "'So, we lived in hard times,' you said" ("Once"), and "why the spring swelled up my lungs with air, / what it was like to leave" ("The Spaces Between Things"). The important whisper fights with everything not as harshly true as it is.

It is not so much I'm a lazy reviewer as Benninghoff ordered her collection well, with strong poems first, "slow music tells me / this world / will never be mine," ("Butterflies"), continuing on her themes, through "St. Paul Street," through to the end, where nature is inevitable, the scene of waiting, but nature's cycle is unforgiving, unhuman as always, in the poems "Under the Sycamore" and "Horseshoe Crabs." That's why the lyric gestures here are less anchored than the facts, why the goldfish's death in "Pear Trees" is the point, and the nice lines, "shaken by / the light" beside it.

Or perhaps I am a lazy reviewer. I am in a maudlin mood, and these poems moved me. "The sound of my breathing / is the loudest sound I hear." ("Lake")

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