Charlotte Boulay’s “Watson and the Shark” from Foxes on the Trampoline

photo (100)Charlotte Boulay is Ecco’s first addition to its roster of poets since 2008 (a roster that includes contemporary poetry heavyweights Robert Hass and Jorie Graham, among others). Having read Ms. Boulay’s debut collection, Foxes on the Trampoline*, I see why Ecco is excited to be publishing her work.

Ms. Boulay is attentive to the power of individual words; poems like “Calenture” and “Changeling” consider the experiences these words conjure up, as well as their connotations, with startling immediacy.

The collection as a whole is grounded in its speaker’s wide range experience, reflecting Ms. Boulay’s travels in France and India. In “Pallikoodam” (which means “school”) the speaker recalls, “We lived with animals: small lizards / darting up the walls, lines of tiny / imperious ants” before going on to remember the ways she found comfort after watching (on television) the towers fall on September 11, and how she and her companion “woke in the mornings / to hear someone singing, softly / as she swept the yard clean.” This combination — of otherness and familiarity, radical change and the routines of ordinary life — resonates deeply in Foxes on the Trampoline.

You can read a selection of Charlotte Boulay’s poems on the Boston Review site, including our poem of the week, “Watson and the Shark.” In this poem, the speaker remembers a childhood encounter with the famous John Singleton Copley painting of the same name (the copy he made of his original version), which is on view at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (we just visited the MFA this past weekend, so this poem jumped out at me. The last stanza is amazing.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.