Poetry: In Michael Hettich’s 7th collection, “The Animals Beyond Us,” grief and nature have no limits

By Deborah Bacharach

Michael Hettich‘s seventh collection of poetry, The Animals Beyond Us (New Rivers Press, 2011) has the wonderful quality of reading like one long integrated poem instead of a pastiche.  The connections are thematic and stylistic, and the layering makes each individual poem reverberate more powerfully than if it stood alone.

Although the book touches on many themes–long-term marriage in particular–in essence it is about grief and how we manage it.  The opening poem, “Widow,” has the griever both cut off from the world, “When it’s cold you understand things by leaving them alone” and “burning inside.”  In this poem, Hettich controls the mood through syntax.  By setting up subjunctives and not completing them he creates a great sense of anticipation:

If silence were a creature like a dog, and could follow you
around like a dog does, and come when you called.
If silence were a housecat you rescued from the alley.

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