June 9, 2022

Crea­ture is a com­plex poet­ics of vital­i­ty, and it immac­u­late­ly cleaves: even as it under­scores how liv­ing in an inher­ent­ly inhos­pitable envi­ron­ment will dis­pos­sess us of the world and one anoth­er, mak­ing ani­mal of man, it sutures the rent evo­lu­tion­ary tree, glo­ri­fy­ing the inter­de­pen­dence of each extant thing. Michael Duma­n­is expert­ly cul­ti­vates the mul­ti­plic­i­ty of lan­guage and makes of crea­ture” a mar­velous con­tronym; we are a crea­ture as in a beast, debased, behold­en to nature, and we are crea­ture as in an exten­sion of cre­ation, improb­a­bly sen­tient, mor­tal, here. In Auto­bi­og­ra­phy,” the speak­er attests to the con­tra­dic­tion at the root of cog­nizance: Am, as an ani­mal, // anx­ious. Appendages always aflut­ter, / am an amaz­ing acci­dent: alive.” How does the human mam­mal embody both and nei­ther — com­mu­nal and itin­er­ant, leav­ing home to approach it, as an immi­grant and a geo­graph­ic nomad, as someone’s child and another’s par­ent, as being and thing? How do we nego­ti­ate our ouro­boric iden­ti­ties while attuned to not just our own fragili­ty, but an impend­ing glob­al extinc­tion event? The answer is the absence of answer. In the begin­ning, I thought a great deal / about death and sun­light, et cetera,” Duma­n­is admits in Squalor,” but The Dou­ble Dream of Spring” absolves us of out­smart­ing imper­ma­nence. O what a ball I had, spend­ing the days.” And what should we do in this ver­nal brevi­ty but exhaust it? We each only have so long to trace our hand over the stony bones / that, fused togeth­er, hold [our] only face.”

Discussion Questions

Michael Dumanis’s Crea­ture cap­tures the feel­ing of being alive in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry so acute­ly, so authen­ti­cal­ly, that it cre­ates an uncan­ny expe­ri­ence in the read­er: an expe­ri­ence both deeply famil­iar and entire­ly new. Duma­n­is weaves the Jew­ish expe­ri­ence into his for­mal­ly deft, lyri­cal poems. In Exit Visa,” he writes, My furtive moth­er has lost inter­est in dwelling / on the long sub­ject of her hur­ried youth. She wor­ries / the lost past will reach with its glass hook … ” This poem, like many oth­ers, cap­tures ter­ror, loss, and sur­vival as they relate to the Sovi­et Jew­ish immi­grant experience.