Isolation and transformation are the central themes of The Spine: isolation caused by death, alien landscapes, and lost ideals; and the transformation, for good or ill, of those this isolation reaches. The people and creatures in "The Ones Consumed" become absorbed - figuratively or literally - by the world around them. Though the absorption often destroys them, the section opens and closes with poems which reveal that there can be compensation and justice in the process. "Separate States" deals with the experiences of those who find themselves cut off from the lives most familiar to them. This separation results in their gaining knowledge stronger and deeper than the kind offered by the surfaces of the commonplace. Isolation has more severe physical and emotional consequences for the people of the poems in "Scars of What Touches." Even when someone chooses isolation, as in the final poem of the section, the presence of the outside world forces itself past the barriers erected against its intrusion. The last section, "Shaped by Shells and journeys," is peopled by those who find reason for hope, even though the innocence of an earlier age has vanished for them. They accept the limitation that the only part of their world they can truly change is themselves, and this releases them from the isolation which wounds or destroys so many in the earlier sections. It is thus that the final poem transforms a scene of unthinking devastation into one where the poet alters the way he will live from that time on.
Publisher: Purdue University Press
Weight: 159 g
Dimensions: 230 x 147 x 5 mm
. . . The collection has an overpowering sense of geography. Spence's landscape builds a primordial space where there is "the fierce outdoors' full of 'air dark and primal.' And yet there is also the smoke of cities and the poet who, in longing for a more pastoral world, 'cannot / See the airport, won't hear its roar / of engines always breathing in."
"Ultimately, The Spine explores the feeling of seclusion that many people feel at some time in their lives. By addressing a wide variety of subjects and situations using the skillful language and turns of phrase that make a solid poet, Spence enchants us not only with the extraordinary, but with the ordinary as well."
--The Bellingham Review
"The Spine is a strong, clear collection. Its spare energy is absolutely appropriate for the human and natural landscapes it evokes with both economy and grace."
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