In his Theory of Prose Victor Shklovsky speaks of Tolsoi’s notion of ostraniene, a device sometimes conflated with, but in fact different from, Brecht’s verfremdungseffekt: the user of ostraniene “does not call a thing by its name, that is, he describes it as if it were perceived for the first time…he foregoes the conventional names of the various parts of the thing, replacing them instead with names of corresponding parts in other things.” This is an important tendency I see running through much of Dorothea Lasky’s profoundly original, visceral poems. Lasky names occurrences, which could be internal or external experiences, using a defiant, charged personal vocabulary of simple, seemingly innocent words torqued in personal, idiosyncratic ways. In her new book Black Life, titled partially after Celan’s own ostranenie moment “black milk,” and partially after Laura Solomon’s revision of same image, Lasky evokes a dilemma when she states: “Live things are black / Black in that they forgot where they came from / I have not forgotten, however I choose not to feel / Those places that have burned into me / There is too much burning here, I’m afraid / Readers, you read flat words.” Lasky’s acknowledgement of the equal importance of the “burning” that went into the writing of the poem and the “flat” reception of said writing by a projected reader stages poetry as a volatile comedy of failure. It’s a comedy because though Lasky is “burning,” she also understands that “I am not what I once was / but who would want to be.” The changing “I” therefore has to insistently reassert her presence and emotions in order to hear herself. Lasky calls us to examine the importance of boundaries, and risk. Her tone that emerges from this bind defies an “unforgiving world who is so sure my rhetoric is mine / And not theirs / If I am am anything I am the flattening of so many into one thing / That I am not powerful / At least not as myself.” The energy that springs from such formulations is chaotic, intensely committed, and passionate in all the best ways, and it sounds like nothing else in poetry. Please welcome Dorothea Lasky to the EOAGH Reading Series.