reviewed by Jennifer Michael Hecht
Vivid, insightful, and sometimes angry, Kasischke’s voice is great company for the reader. “The Cause of All My Suffering” is a radiant self-portrait of the darkness, the place in us where we are furious over disappointment, where we have rage and no longer care if we sort it out correctly. In the poem the speaker detests the neighbors’ rescued indoor piglets. She sees the piglets and their savior as common, ubiquitous, and grotesque. “Horrible life!” Then Kasischke sneaks in the notion “I pray // to God to give me / the ability to write // better poems than the poems of those / whom I despise.” With that the poem turns, the piglets next door have, one by one, died, and she can say to that dark side of herself, “Isn’t that enough?” This could also be read as: Is there no way to convince you that you are not the only one suffering, that your fury is ridiculous? This is a collection of masterful poems that are honest about the experience of being a person while posing urgent philosophical questions and answering them through the act of art that chimes and throws sparks. The title of the book finally shows up prominently in the volume, as the last line of the poem “Ubi Sunt,” a shapely rant, both physical and metaphysical, that thinks about what transpires on vacation cruises. The poem asks if we will see greatness again in the world and where those great
ones are now, “Where now?”
This review originally appeared in American Poets, Spring-Summer 2017.