Issue 99 |

rev. of National History by Dan Chiasson



Natural History, poems by Dan Chiasson (Knopf): Dan Chiasson's second book offers up a complex weave of personae—guises as various as Horace, Pliny the Elder, and Randall Jarrell. From behind these many veils, the poems meditate upon the intersections of lived and literary experience, the mythical and the day-to-day. Chiasson playfully subverts the dramatic monologue by addressing himself through his personae, and his rhetoric shifts between the elegant and absurd. Some lines are poetic in every sense of the word; other lines resolutely refuse to succumb to decorous language. This wise, complicated, and often quite humorous collection provides its reader full access to a deeply human account of our shared anxieties, griefs, and pleasures: "We know nothing except by learning: / not walking, not eating. Only to cry comes naturally." —Cate Marvin