My review of the British publication of Dan Chiasson’s Natural History and Other Poems is on display over at Eyewear:
Chiasson’s work can be characterized by a deep, entrenched sadness. Poems frequently find themselves, sometimes inexplicably, worrying the concepts of death, decomposition, departure—even the implication of death, what Chiasson refers to as “the kitsch / of death” (“‘…and yet the end must be as ’tis'”). Particularly in The Afterlife of Objects does this preoccupation hold center stage as it creates tension between the inevitable failures of the body against the static persistence of things.
In “My Ravine,” the speaker describes a place in which a landfill for box springs, bookcases, desks, and even “somebody’s hairdryer” becomes the irresistible resting place for deer, who ultimately “stare at each other and wander / bewildered down my ravine and turn into skeletons.” Later, in “Natural History,” the image appears again, but as an elephant: “Worn out by suffering, we lie on our great backs, / tossing grass up to heaven – as a distraction, not a prayer. // That’s not humility you see on our long final journeys: / it’s procrastination. It hurts my heavy body to lie down.”