The Mind-Body Problem Reviewed in the New York Times' Sunday Book Review

Eric McHenry reviewed Pollitt's The Mind-Body Problem in this week's Sunday Book Review for the New York Times:

“Everywhere I look I see my fate,” Pollitt writes, and she’s not kidding. Studying the ragtag riders on a New York subway at night, she thinks “of Xerxes, how he reviewed his troops / and wept to think that . . . / not one would be alive in a hundred years.” The kitschy collectibles in a schoolyard rummage sale have crossed decades to deliver the message “that we lose even what we never had.” “The Mind-Body Problem,” Pollitt’s second collection of poems (and her first in close to 30 years), is a book consumed not so much with mortality as with transience, of which mortality is one aspect. Another is the way our most casual choices come to define us, a process Pollitt likes to enact by letting casual-seeming analogies take over whole poems. “Death can’t help but look friendly / when all your friends live there,” she writes in “Old,” “while more and more / each day’s like a smoky party / where the music hurts and strangers insist that they know you.” In the ­poem’s final lines you’re still at that awful party, checking your watch and saying “to no one in particular, / If you don’t mind, I think I’ll go home now.” Pollitt knows how to pace a poem — where it ought to turn, tense and relax. She knows how many specifics she needs to save up in order to afford an abstraction, and how to cinch off a free-verse lyric with pentametrical certainty: “wrapped in white tissue paper, like a torch”; “the silent, bright elms burn themselves away.” A few of the poems feel pat and rhetorical (Pollitt, a longtime columnist for The Nation, is persuasive for a living). But “The Mind-Body Problem” is an affecting and satisfying book.