Review of “Drowning in the Floating World” by Meg Eden

Meg Eden’s landscape for “Drowning in the Floating World” is the 2011 Tohoku tsunami in Japan and the following Fukushima nuclear disaster. The poems are populated by people who are fully realized in a few lines. It is through this close focus that the big picture emerges. Huge horrors cannot be processed all at once, and the small details make it all identifiable and real in a way that a camera pulled back would not be able to do.

In “Response to the Brother Who Wants to Move in After the Earthquake,” the fear is palpable. “You are contaminated; / a power plant lives in you now. / There’s already radiation in your skin, / and I can’t risk you rubbing off on me.” In “Poem for the Sneakers Washing Onshore,” Eden makes the scope of the tragedy more comprehensible in a simple way that grows on you with each line. “we are the feet of salarymen / & the feet of school girls / & the feet of tennis players / & the feet of arcade gamers…” Some poems come at you viscerally and will stick with you for a long time. These lines are from “Tsunami Girl.” “It happened quite slowly: her pale flesh rotted, / slipping from nature, from her family’s thoughts. / First, her face, then hands, and only at the very end, / her hair. Only then was she counted / collateral in a city filled with collateral.”

Nothing is wasted in this writing. I can feel that every syllable, every comma, was thought out. Beauty and horror dance together in these poems, tied together by a felt humanity. I highly recommend this book.

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