Oni Buchanan’s second collection, What Animal, oscillates with ease and grace between the spaces of beauty and decay in the modern world. Buchanan frequently usurps the expected relationships between form and content to yield a shifting landscape charged with philosophical meditations, emotional intensity, and moments of whimsy. The poems of What Animal call us to witness to the mind at work, a mind attempting to invent and re-invent an understanding of self and the surrounding world, such as in "Solstice":
One day the moon will fly
out of its orbit, a release
like a snapping, an amputation, a dead rock
gone. The small voices of lambs
drowned out by the
machinery rigged for their removal.
I began to think about the ocean.
I begged to think, melodic apparitions
Rising out of the static chord.
The formal departures and rhapsodic imagery astound and enliven us at every turn: in one moment, we are called to contemplate the mirth of a tangerine; in the next, we find ourselves watching "the crab shapes / quiver underwater." Buchanan navigates past the confines of prescribed meaning to a delicate yet robust world charged with the fluttering of imagination and glimmering with possibility.
This book review originally appeared in American Poets.