Join the conversation
Subscribe to Our Emails
Boston Review is a public space for the discussion of ideas and culture. Sign up for our newsletters and don’t miss a thing.
A collection that moves past the body versus mind duality.
by Jennifer Militello
Tupelo Press, $16.95 (paper)
Jennifer Militello’s Body Thesaurus begins with a passage from Dylan Thomas: “I, in my intricate image, stride on two levels.” It is an apt point of entry for an exploration of the struggle between an individual’s inner life and her experiences of the uncontrollable exterior world. But Militello goes beyond this persistent duality and the perennial empiricist debate of body versus mind. Her poems are paradoxical lyrics—disorienting syntax mixes parts of speech to create strange and uneven shifts of sound and meaning. Bridging and muddling the disconnects between body and world, she writes: “I am rich with different versions / of myself, and I do not know an antidote for me.” Her speakers trudge through circumstance, confronting the futility, fleetingness, and finalities of everyday life. Challenged by illness, sick with language, the body throughout the book becomes a ravaged landscape: “in a world / where nothing is clear, the world is a wound.” Militello explores the irreconcilable collision of body, psyche, and language when none are working as they should. The systematic form of the book—six sections announced by analytical statements that are subsequently navigated and subverted: “The self is not a symptom,” “The self is not a battery of tests,” “The self is not a cure”—sets us in the cold reality of scientific process, but it is a reality where boundaries between psychic interior and clinical exterior no longer hold.
...we need your help. Confronting the many challenges of COVID-19—from the medical to the economic, the social to the political—demands all the moral and deliberative clarity we can muster. In Thinking in a Pandemic, we’ve organized the latest arguments from doctors and epidemiologists, philosophers and economists, legal scholars and historians, activists and citizens, as they think not just through this moment but beyond it. While much remains uncertain, Boston Review’s responsibility to public reason is sure. That’s why you’ll never see a paywall or ads. It also means that we rely on you, our readers, for support. If you like what you read here, pledge your contribution to keep it free for everyone by making a tax-deductible donation.
Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox
Printing Note: For best printing results try turning on any options your web browser's print dialog makes available for printing backgrounds and background graphics.