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Review: Thaw, by Víctor Rodríguez Núñez

Laura Scott, the North, Spring 2014, No. 52

The first thing I want to say about Thaw is to register the intense pleasure of reading it. It's partly, I think, the pleasure of recognition, of realising after only a few lines, that what you've got here is the real thing. Nunez is a virtuoso, and this gives him an attractive ease - like someone who knows they are charming, but has known it for so long that they've almost forgotten it. There's a relaxed assurance that runs through all the poems, which is there in the very structured of the collection, in the ways in which it curves sensually back on itself. Thaw is a sequence of a hundred 'decimas' (ten-line-poems) which stand on their own as individual poems but also work cumulatively by returning to the same ideas and images, as if the images were bright stones that had caught his eye and the poetry was water, washing and smoothing them into shapes.
The poems move between Mallarme and the snow, animals, landscape, poems, sex, getting old, deer that eat his tulips - all of these run like tributaries into the river of the bigger poem. What holds it together is the consistency of the poet's position as the person watching all of this, the persn being amazed and astonished by it. The translator's note speaks of Nunez's 'fear of and fascination with the Ohio landscape, so unlike the tropics of the poet's native Cuba' and maybe this goes some way to explaining the wide-eyed hyper-awareness that permeates the writing, but I think it is more than that.