Domain of Perfect Affection, Robin Becker’s seventh collection of poems, begins with a mantra (‘to plant/the self like an orange tree in the desert/and irrigate, irrigate, irrigate’) and ends on a note of gratitude: ‘Today I put my faith in our natural gifts — /good humor, good friends, the nick-of-time — /in your wild heart that inclines toward mine.’ The tree has blossomed. There are a number of gorgeous pastoral details throughout the collection, so vividly and aptly describing the natural world they bring to mind the poems of Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop. Unlike Bishop, Becker writes candidly, if often subtly and indirectly, about her sex life. In “Salon,” she writes of her mother’s gay hairdresser, ‘only with him may she discuss my lover and me/and in this way intimacy takes the shape/of the afternoon she passes in the salon,/in the domain of perfect affection.’ This book seeks that domain in different locations, in paintings and books, in relationships with friends, parents and lovers, in nature — here is Becker’s knockout first line of the poem “Rain”: ‘I decided to love its drenching monopolies.’ I decided to love this book, full of poems distilled in memory, clothed in language that is by turns virtuosic and quiet, astonishing and accurate. One might say of it what Becker does of friendship, that it ‘is neither intermittent, nor divisible/into parts, but aboriginal, discordant, the new music.’
Jason Myers is a writer whose work has appeared in AGNI, BOOKFORUM, and Tin House.