Saturday, July 31, 2010

Received - Complete Physical by Shane Neilson

Complete Physical by Shane Neilson – The Porcupine’s Quill

Shane Neilson’s accustomed fascination with the two great subjects, love and death, has taken a purely professional interest: he has written poetry that fuses his typical poetic concerns with those of his profession as a physician. The poems in Complete Physical are primarily lyrics, but there is the occasional villanelle and sestina amidst a squalid sea of punchy narrative; all the poems ponder what it means to be ill, and some celebrate what it means to recover. Some poems even consider the tragic point at which illness becomes identity. In every poem the poet’s patients’ come alive, but the main character is the observant doctor, chiding, cheerleading, and sometimes just drawing his pay.

“...Doctors share one important thing with poets: an obsession with death. Shane Neilson has turned that obsession – and the special deathwatching vantage of his medical trade – into a collection of poems as beguiling and as brave as any I have recently read. In a clinical universe where suffering is distanced by language, Complete Physical becomes a kind of extraordinary talking cure. The human predicament has rarely found itself in such good hands.” – Carmine Starnino

The poems in Complete Physical address the most important question that the physical begs; How are we to live in this world? Neilson writes. “The poems make that question tangential, they throw in details to make the poem fastenable... but they are always answering in earnest.” Neilson is a family physician. He has written numerous books of poetry, and all of his writing shows fealty to his rural New Brunswick origins. He lives in Guelph, Ontario.

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