Review of Thunderbird

Thunderbird, Dorothea Lasky (Wave Books, 2012), Reviewed by Vladislav Frederick

Dorothea Lasky’s Thunderbird is a unique creature. This is not because the book’s most persistent theme is death—after all, there are literal mountains of works in the world that focus on death. No—Thunderbird is unique in the way Lasky so boldly and consistently uses death, surrounding readers with it while simultaneously disallowing them from feeling any sense of finality in death’s presence. Within Lasky’s work, death becomes a state of being rather than an end of being—and, by the end of the book, readers will find themselves wondering if they ever really understand just what exactly death means. Readers will be even more shocked to realize just how much optimism hides within the Thunderbird, belying the idea that any work so heavily linked with death must certainly be depressing.

However, I would be grossly underselling Lasky if the theme of death was all I mentioned about her work. Thunderbird is rife with nature—colors and perceptions of the elements blossom from every page, alive amidst death. Thunderbird also confronts and blurs the lines of gender, frequently diving in and out of Lasky’s own unique interpretation of biblical references or clichés. But even beyond this, Lasky dissects human struggles with the concept of self, of the individual versus the masses, versus the world as a whole. All writers draw from their own experiences in their writing, but Lasky does so with an exceptional amount of brutal frankness, as well as her own flavor of grim humor. She tears herself into pieces, and makes a macabre yet beautiful collage of these pieces that she then shares—intimately so—with the reader. In doing this, Lasky shows how insignificant a person can come to feel in the face of the wide world, yet how terribly important each individual truly is to so many other other equally “insignificant” individuals in the world.

Lasky’s mode of delivery usually comes in shorter lines that consist of a complete or nearly complete thought, and are often followed or preceded by a shorter line. This gives something of a staccato feel to the poems, forcing readers to confront each poem in quick (though not shallow) breaths. This element can be seen in “The world doesn’t care”

 

The world doesn’t care if you pay your taxes

 on time

The world doesn’t care

 

The world doesn’t care if you are loved,

 hungry, or fed

The word doesn’t care who died this year

 

The world doesn’t care if your are murdered or

 raped

If you struggle, if you are generous

 

This first part of “The world doesn’t care” shows that struggle between the self and the world, the constant presence of death shadowing the struggle. The comparative brevity of the second line in each triplet generates its own force, creating the greater punch of each couplet. As a final encouragement to pick up this piece of Lasky’s soul and read it closely, I’ll leave you readers of this review with the ending of “The world doesn’t care.”

 

But I care

But I care if you are hungry

 

The world doesn’t care

But I care

 

The world doesn’t care

But I do