rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book exemplifies everything we love about Meng. Gregarious, obsessive and funny. Reoccurring images are absurdly funny (God as a walrus, a million permutations of Dana Gioia) without being self-consciously so. Meng is master of virtuouso improvisation that never appears forced, even when she's seemingly allowing her cat to type for her ("The cat wanted me to tell you: / 9iooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. . .\hqwaaaaaa")--something only Meng can get away with.
Meng can turn on a dime from whimsical to dead serious "those hairs inside her ears sweating/ always a need to lick & come away / more walrus than the man before the losses / one feels after kneeling" & is full of folksy but profound insights ("we who confuse / mermaids with jellyfish"). By turns fierce and vulnerable; the most arresting poems in the book are the eponymous "Letters to Deer," seemingly written from within Plato's cave to the symbolic animal, alternately fierce and vulnerable and full of genuine identification with the creatures "We had no choice but to eat / the ornamental cabbage.")
Susana Gardner's rough-hewn presentation wrapped in dress patterns suits the work well.
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