Transaction Histories by Donna Stonecipher

$19.95 University of Iowa

Transaction Histories, Donna Stonecipher’s fifth collection, swallows the reader from the start, sending one deep into a 21st-century regency romance whose meticulously crafted prose poems wax melancholic on language, love, and travel. We are welcomed into a room full of keys, signet rings, and specimen boxes by an unpretending sophisticate who then ushers us along from clock museum to design museum to Alpine telfer, staying the course with recurring object or image or term rather than straight-ahead narration. Not that these poems—sectioned, numbered, shuffled—don’t engage in a sort of detailed associational hopscotch, beguiling us with child sailors, swan boats, and secrets to peaceful sleep, but Stonecipher hasn’t stopped at poetic play. She goes much further, unnesting exteriors of dreamy tints and breathy emotions to reveal layers of existential inquiry and intense longing. Like a sideways novel of manners sans moralism, Transaction Histories peers into every nook of the personal and the social with entrancing genius.

 —Alexander Moysaenko