There are roughly two dozen poems in Body of Work, the latest collection from Tina Cane, Poet Laureate of Rhode Island since late 2016. With a landscape format maximizing the book’s white space, the collection is anchored by “(My) American Journal,” a forty-page rumination delving into Cane’s past—a New York childhood, and the root of her vestigial immigrant frugality—and back further, to China, where a legendary distant aunt may have died after swallowing a jade necklace. Other poems flesh out specific details, like a stint living in the Chelsea Hotel, where “iron balconies were dropping like lace.” The many references to old New York feel particularly poignant: a Hell’s Kitchen bakery, or an egg cream from a luncheonette on a corner that doesn’t exist. There are also a pair of instructional list poems, “Life Hacks” (ie. “Freeze grapes to chill wine without watering it down”) and “Post-Its” (“Quell panic attack sparked by Bananas Foster Yankee Candle conversation”).
The Books on the Square event is a launch for Body of Work (Veliz Books) and also Patrick Donnelly’s Little Known Operas (Four Way Books).