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Home of Sudden Service

by Elizabeth Bachinsky

It’s rare to encounter a book of poetry that so nimbly balances accessibility and craft as this second collection by Elizabeth Bachinsky. Drawing on apparently vast reserves of hipster angst, Bachinsky portrays the struggles of the young with a skillful mix of ironic detachment and saucer-eyed immediacy. The appeal of many of these poems is primarily voyeuristic, touching on the skewed pleasure we get from watching Bachinsky’s characters discover the tough truths of sex, death, and growing up bored. Familiar turf, yes, but their music is often persuasive enough to ward off cliché.

“Where I’m from boys and girls/ fuck young,” says the speaker of “Petit Mal, Petit Mort,” “wait for the snow to go then lay/ their bodies out beneath the pines to play.” One of the book’s many irregular sonnets, the poem has a dexterous weave of rhyme and alliteration that is typical of Bachinsky’s keen ear. Two villanelles, a glosa using P.K. Page, several handfuls of punchy free-verse narratives, and a single prose piece round out the collection, evincing a young poet concerned with tradition, but possessing an experimental impulse that gives her work a countercultural thrust.

It is this formal diversity that ultimately saves Home of Sudden Service from its narrow range of subject matter, as again and again we are met with boys and girls who seem generic in their hormone-fuelled concerns. Fortunately, Bachinsky proves herself an expert ventriloquist, able to deliver the goods from many perspectives – from young mother Jenni in “For the Teen Moms At Valley Fair Mall” to the murder victim of “Wolf Lake” to the community chorus of the “Sometimes Boys Go Missing” series.

So pronounced is Bachinsky’s vocal adaptability that one wonders what Browningesque cast of characters she might come up with if she chose to write a little further from her own experience. For now, however, she’s given us this beguiling sophomore effort, the work of a writer worth not only watching, but reading.