Steven Price’s second collection is part of a long-lived struggle to address the mysteries that both surround and inhabit us. The book draws together moments both contemporary and historical, ranging from Herodotus to Augustine of Hippo, from a North American childhood to Greek mythology; indeed, the collection is threaded with interjections from a Greek-style chorus of clever-minded, mischievous beings—half-ghost, half-muse—whose commentaries tormentingly egg the writer on. In poems that range from free verse to prose to formal constructions, Price addresses the moral lack in the human heart and the labour of living with such a heart. Yet the Hopkins-like, sonorous beauty of the language reveals “grace and the idea of grace everywhere, in spite of what we do.” The pleasures of Price’s musicality permeate confrontation with even the darkest of human moments; the poems thus surreptitiously remind us that to confront our own darkness is one of the divine acts of which humans are capable.
The poems are characterized by vivid images, precise details, and many shades of grey. Price clearly delights in choosing and arranging his words to forge lines and phrases at once guttural, visceral, and mythic. He revels in creating inventive compounds: “rain-shivering,” “half-kind,” “wind-amped,” “noonspackled,” “sunhammered.” The neologisms enhance the book’s profound, almost prophetic, feel.