These poems traverse the realms of art, history, horticulture, and medicine, excavating our sensual world to find meaning. From Eve’s out-held hand to Madame Roentgen’s ring-clad hand x-ray, these poems seek understanding through the senses and preservation through the witnessing of small acts. The poet’s ability to enter into the experience of others than herself, and to identify interesting and unjustly neglected lives, gives these poems a rich sense of perspective and a broad appeal.
Simmons investigates the mixed messages and misunderstandings that occur along the frayed borders where rural and urban, innocence and sexuality, Eastern and Western culture, art and life, history and interpretation meet.
I found much to admire in the language of the poems which was at once tender and attentive, and vigorously surprising—dense, worked, and sensual.… The language, like the subjects themselves, seems deeply concerned with tactility and texture, and like the poems’ subjects, is pleasingly ambitious and surprising.
Her poems go beneath the surfaces of things—a hand, a cloud of sperm, the remains of a victim of Vesuvius, a posed portrait at a county fair—to see things anew. Simmons can turn the same exacting eye from objects to personal experience, opening up the self and its past for reflective inspection. Graft travels a double trajectory—outward from self to landscape to history, inward from apparent surface to occluded interior—a journey for which the body is both vehicle and much-questioned destination. In this book, “Love is pure science,” the world stripped bare is radiant, and rebuilds itself.