What Books Press, $36.99 pb, 94 pp
‘Every sacred language,’ writes Octavio Paz, ‘is secret. And conversely: every secret language … borders on the sacred.’ In the liminal Pyre, poet Maureen Alsop traverses – and erodes – this secret/sacred border, which is also the border of life and death, ‘the valley between our language’ (‘North Channel’). Each of the book’s section titles is a variation on ‘Selenomancy’, defined on the contents page as ‘a divination by the observation of the phases and appearances of the moon’. That Alsop titles multiple poems ‘Sky An Oar’, moreover, betrays the purpose of these divinations: to reach the other side, the ‘village across the waters’ that ‘burned all night’ (‘Witness’). The collection’s challenge, which it mostly meets successfully, is to remain on the compelling side of hermeticism.