Who Said by Jennifer Michael Hecht

This edgily playful volume from poet, philosopher, and historian Hecht is both a pleasure and a puzzle — truly. Many of its poems sing back to well known verses (some better known than others). Should you not recognize the progenitors, you’ll find notes in the back, but not the usual sort — they’re in the form of cryptograms. While it ripples with wit and lyricism, Who Said is also a book with depth, and it sounds at times with a dark and haunting tone.

“Zoo Review”

To begin is to let things out of control.
The park’s caged condor stumbles to the fore.
The mind cannot be told what it does not know.

Let us begin by calling a massive bird a soul;
each wing wide as the height of a man or more.
To begin is to help things out of control

with a clasp of fence in beak and a forceful fold
of what was given, then out the rifted door.
The mind must graze what it cannot hold.

If the population of the park took up a goal
of leaving, it wouldn’t stop to wonder where to go.
To begin is to chase thoughts out of control.

Likewise, as love and birth have come to show,
much cannot be seen before we are ashore
where minds find what, at sea, they did not know.

The bird adjusts its shoulder feathers like a stole,
a bristling cape, a heft of flight, a height left low.
To begin is to let things out of control.
The mind cannot be told what it does not know.