To Give It Up

This collection has been selected for the National Poetry Series by Barbara Guest, and it’s easy to spot the affinities of these two poets. Both struggle with abstractions and the incapacity of mere words to convey even the most simplistic feelings. Rehm’s work is the more philosophical, not even rooted, as Guest’s often is, in the abstraction of paintings. Whereas most contemporary poets are concerned with seeing clearly, defining the object itself, Rehm prefers to “push my eyes so closed/to find some belief/ among my vulnerabilities/to think upon.” Her Romantic sensibility carries through in conception and execution: a series of four “vows,” replete with formal “thy” and “thee,” could be an addendum to “Sonnets from the Portuguese.” In less directly probing pieces, she toys with diction. These poems might not be to everyone’s taste, but Rehm’s voice is mature and distinctive. One senses an enormous amount of work has gone into this collection, and that these poems have emerged precisely as the poet wished them.

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Selected by

Barbara Guest