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Vivisection by Eric Weinstein

Vivisection by Eric Weinstein

Reviews, Vol. 4.4, Dec. 2010
New Michigan Press, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-934832-25-7
Perfect bound, 61 pp., $9
Review by Cynthia Reeser

The language of Eric Weinstein’s Vivisection (winner of the 2010 Diagram/New Michigan Press chapbook contest) is intricate, precise, multifoliate. As a collection, the poems speak to the collision of life, the separation of self from self, the self divided, the heart divided. From “Copula,”

Like a pregnant woman
or conjoined twins, man and bird

were seraphim, if only
for an hour: two hearts,

one form. & like mother from
child, brother from brother, rent

from one another, the small
beak is pried from the flesh

& the flesh closed up after.

Resonant throughout the collection is that we are both more and less than the sum of our parts, subject to frailties of body and mind, capable of creating false hearts and prostheses that endure even after the final failure of the body. Throughout Vivisection, the construction of mechanisms supporting life parallels the deconstruction of the internal self and the constructs of the subconscious, as in “Field Notes,” a poem laden with dark subtext:

I have a heart & so I know
how to make one. It is no
secret: human beings are one

part malice, four parts glass

“Persephone’s Telephone” underscores the way we can be broken down into parts (“Coughing, chthonically ill, she sweeps debris into the Styx, the glass, the salt waters & seals her hearts in a new jar labeled FUGUES”), and the incomprehensibility of death. “Open Heart Surgery” speaks to the division and the difference between the physical and metaphysical selves: there is the heart (literal, physical), and then there is the heart (love, intangible): a surgeon, operating on his wife, finds “that her heart, / pale and still as a stone in water, / had looked just like every other.” In “Directions to Lake Bonneville,” the heart itself is the reflection of the one loved, much like Narcissus in “Copula,” if he were divided beyond self to mirrored-reflection-in-lake.

Weinstein carries the trope further, and in “Anatomy Lesson (III),” humans are mirrored, twinned, divided in more than just a physical sense, more than just self from self; we are rendered as clay in the biblical sense, as creatures rendered from the soil of the earth: “The mother dreams field after mirrored field. / The boy dreams an orchard of bone.”

Weinstein builds poems like a surgeon, every word and image and line break purposeful, precise. The prose poems often have a playful or ironic sensibility (“Persephone’s Telephone”) and the content adeptly follows the form. Vivisection explores the multiple facets of life and the heart, and the poems reward multiple readings.

After Harvest by Rebecca Schumejda

Filigreed by Carrie Murphy

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