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PRINT December 2019

books

Douglas Crase

Timothy Donnelly’s new collection, The Problem of the Many (Wave Books), arrives with one of its constituent poems already a classic. “Hymn to Life,” which appeared as a chapbook in 2014, praised life by singing a hymn to extinctions instead, especially those that have occurred while humans were intent on self-referential trivia. The question has been whether Donnelly could live up to his masterpiece; the thrill is that he clearly has. And then some. The title of his new book derives from an issue in philosophy (some say metaphysics) that arises in the case of an object, such as a cloud or even a human being, whose demarcations are so indistinct that it seems impossible to tell where its identity ends and another’s begins. A poet doesn’t have to solve this problem to extend it metaphorically, meaning that one soon feels from Donnelly’s poems how there are no absolving demarcations

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