Better with bitterness

It’s possible that Revell, a talented poet and translator, has finally crossed the line from strange lyricism into full-blown ecstatic prophecy with this collection. If so, poetry readers are the beneficiaries of his grace. “The Bitter Withy” is taken from an old British song that attributes the willow’s habit of rotting from within to the curse Jesus placed upon the switch his mother used to spank him. In these poems, every subject carries this curse: “God’s favorites / Are the little stars He drops into the sun” (“Kentucky”). Every living thing contains its own destruction, and Revell’s poems detail both fully, with the sort of breathless anticipation of our inevitable death wrapped around exhilaration at the very fact of our lives. “I am shouting into debris. / Immodest happiness in Eden’s humility—” (“Against Creation”). This book topped my nominations for a National Book Critics Circle award nod. Go and read it now.