The Weight of Bodily Touches by Joseph Zaccardi

Autumn Reading Recommendations – Editor Picks

on an acr

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/01/01/on-an-acre-shy-of-eternity-micro-landscapes-at-the-edge-by-robert-dash/

theres-never-been-a-better-time-to-die-bernard-meisler-front-cover-600x924

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/01/01/theres-never-been-a-better-time-to-buy-die-by-bernard-meisler/

uber

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/01/01/uberchef-usa-by-jennifer-juneau/

ceas

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/01/01/cesare-by-jerome-charyn/

zaccardi_front_1799x

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/the-weight-of-bodily-touches-by-joseph-zaccardi/

SoulSisterRevue_72

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/soul-sister-revue-a-poetry-compilation-by-cynthia-manick-editor/

Pages-from-the-Goncourt-Journal-Oxford-pape-by

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/pages-from-the-concourt-journal/

dead kid

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/03/01/the-dead-kid-poems-by-alexis-rhone-fancher/

bear

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/03/01/the-bear-by-andrew-krivak/

dream house

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/01/in-the-dream-house-by-carmen-maria-machado/

soju

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/07/01/sojourners-of-the-in-between-by-gregory-djanikian/

the war

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/the-war-still-within-poems-of-the-koran-diaspora-by-tanya-ko-hong/

getting

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/01/getting-to-philadelphia-new-and-selected-poems-by-thomas-devaney/

paularegossycover_2048x2048

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/09/30/paula-regossy-by-lynn-crawford/

What the Owl Taught Me

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/05/31/what-the-owl-taught-me-by-annest-gwilym/

paper_bells_1_530x

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/paper-bells-by-phan-nhien-hao-translated-by-hai-dang-phan/

flow

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/03/01/flow-by-beth-kephart/

party

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/08/01/poetry-everywhere-by-jeffrey-cyphers-wright/

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g emil reutter (2)

g emil reutter is the book review editor for North of Oxford. He can be found here: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

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Summer Reading Recommendations Based on readership- Top fifteen books reviewed at North of Oxford January – July 2020

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The War Still Within: Poems of the Korean Diaspora by Tanya Ko Hong

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/the-war-still-within-poems-of-the-koran-diaspora-by-tanya-ko-hong/

Soul Sister Revue: A Poetry Compilation by Cynthia Manick (editor)

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/soul-sister-revue-a-poetry-compilation-by-cynthia-manick-editor/

ÜBERCHEF USA by Jennifer Juneau

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/01/01/uberchef-usa-by-jennifer-juneau/

The Dead Kid Poems by Alexis Rhone Fancher

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/03/01/the-dead-kid-poems-by-alexis-rhone-fancher/

What the Owl Taught Me by Annest Gwilym

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/05/31/what-the-owl-taught-me-by-annest-gwilym/

Paper Bells by Phan Nhiên Hạo (Translated by Hai-Dang Phan

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/paper-bells-by-phan-nhien-hao-translated-by-hai-dang-phan/

The Weight of Bodily Touches by Joseph Zaccardi

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/the-weight-of-bodily-touches-by-joseph-zaccardi/

On an Acre Shy of Eternity: Micro Landscapes at the Edge by Robert Dash

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/01/01/on-an-acre-shy-of-eternity-micro-landscapes-at-the-edge-by-robert-dash/

The Elvis Machine by Kim Vodicka

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/07/01/the-elvis-machine-by-kim-vodicka/

Obit by Victoria Chang

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/05/31/obit-by-victoria-chang/

Getting to Philadelphia: New and Selected Poems by Thomas Devaney

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/01/getting-to-philadelphia-new-and-selected-poems-by-thomas-devaney/

Someone’s Utopia by Joe Hall

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/someones-utopia-by-joe-hall/

Library Rain by Rustin Larson

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/library-rain-by-rustin-larson/

Flow by Beth Kephart

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/03/01/flow-by-beth-kephart/

In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/01/in-the-dream-house-by-carmen-maria-machado/

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The Weight of Bodily Touches by Joseph Zaccardi

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By Don Thompson

This is dark stuff.  The opening poem of Joseph Zaccardi’s new collection, The Weight of Bodily Touches, seems to be offered as a warning so that the tender-hearted might proceed no farther.  In “To Feast on the Flesh of Decay”, a farmer’s wife exhumes the bones of a miscarried baby to “suckle my loss” and then “eats the grave dust under her own nails”.  Some readers of this review will no doubt stop right here.

But I wonder about the source of such darkness.  Usually it’s a kind of posturing that intends to shock for its own sake—a variety of grand guignol.  But in these poems, it’s a genuine and almost compulsive response to the—well, horror that surrounds us.  Zaccardi looks closely at things most of us studiously ignore or see as social issues that provide an opportunity to do good from a distance. In these poems we witness human consciousness barely holding itself together in the face of suffering that just is.  No one to blame.  Not much to be done.

“The Sound the Tree Makes” turns out to be a scream and the answer to Bishop Berkeley’s question that even if no human hears it, the other trees do.  And this is only a tree—perhaps ridiculous if Zaccardi hadn’t given us such a vivid description of the tortures inflicted on logs in a lumber mill. When he focuses on human suffering in “ICU”,  we’re forced to see the awfulness of hospitals that we try to pretend isn’t there among the pastels and smooth jazz: “…a gurney casting chirps down a corridor…while IVs beep and air whistles from tap holes” and “a defibrillator delivers doses of electric current to undo a flatliner”.

In all this, Zaccardi exhibits a craftsman’s skill with the unpunctuated, run-on prose poem.  We are carried long by the ebb and flow of rhythms rather than bogged down in the usual unreadable clot.  This gives the poems tension—an odd exhilaration that runs counter to their grim subject matter.  And he does make an effort to reach some sort of quietness if not peace of mind in the final section, which shifts tone radically to pay homage to classical Chinese poetry.  But it’s too little too late to offset the preceding darkness.

And yet, like the spiders he writes about in “Circle and Alchemy”, his work is both “beautiful and hair-raising”.  Although their webs and our lives are fragile and tear apart easily, we “rebuild because there is so much left.”

You can find the book here: https://kelsaybooks.com/products/the-weight-of-bodily-touches

Don Thompson has been writing about the San Joaquin Valley for over fifty years, including a dozen or so books and chapbooks.  For more info and links to publishers, visit his website at www.don-e-thompson.com.

 

 

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