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Reviewed by:
  • The Double Truth
  • Alyse Bensel (bio)
Chard deNiord . The Double Truth. University of Pittsburgh Press.

The Double Truth, Chard deNiord's fourth collection, consists of lyric poems that examine the "double truth" of love itself, providing a modern perspective. Each poem brings new insight into the collection, placing together the visceral and esoteric in unexpected ways. Love's many aspects reveal themselves slowly to the speaker. These poems address philosophical concerns and spiritual matters, always delving deeper than the surface of things.

deNiord divides the collection into four distinct sections, each engaging with the subject of love. The first section begins with premonitions of love, such as in the poem "Renunciation." The speaker observes a dark cloud encroaching on a clear October sky, realizing, as he contemplates spiritual matters,

        the more I thought, the larger the cloudbecame, as if I knew from the start I couldn'tlove for long, much less forever as the blueappeared to want.

This knowledge that love cannot last continues in "Pitch," when, before a military raid, a soldier receives a message in a bottle from his love. The narrator speculates that "We've known from the start that he's the one / who's going to die, who must be sacrificed in the end for our beliefs."

The second section addresses more esoteric concerns, engaging with philosophers and their philosophies. In "What Beauty Knows about Itself," the repetition of the line draws in concrete details ("a worm that is capable of consuming the heart") as well as conceptual terms in ending lines:

That it is transcendent form, criminal catalyst.That it might as well be motherless since death is its mother.That it fades much quicker than it appears.

In "A History of Love's Body," love personified is made to endure "with the knowledge / of suffering, suffering." Here, deNiord crafts lines that are beautiful and transcendent in the poem's final stanza:

And I uttered a sound that madeno sense, but was indelible in the air,a syllable was all that grewin my throat, a diphthong for the pitchof two songs at once, both joy and grief.

The simultaneity of "both joy and grief" provides the entry point to this collection that engages in matters of the heart, expressing the dual emotions that consume us when we love.

A shift occurs in the third section, as deNiord turns to pastoral images [End Page 180] in experiencing the natural world. The title of the collection appears in this section in "The Thinker," as the speaker observes a snake "with a tongue that spoke the double truth / as an order no creature with legs or arms could follow." The body of the snake, in its ability to change shape, stands as a motif for the human and animal connection, while the speaker realizes his inability to transcend the natural world. In "Storm Cloud," the speaker asks "For how long did I make this error / of thinking I knew more than the creatures? / Of not enjoying the smallest chores?" as he folds the laundry, watching storm clouds move in. He learns from the animals in "The Animals," a poem in dialogue with Walt Whitman. The speaker knows that "Nothing I did / returned to them what they brought to me. / They were the geniuses of paradise still." Internal contemplation in this section informs the remaining fourth section of the collection, as the speaker draws from the previous three to ponder the mystery of love.

The final section uses intense, short lyrics cemented in concrete detail to speak of a lover who has gone and yet is still present. In "Bare and Live," the speaker likens love to a live wire:

We were in two places at once like a wire,stretched out between the cathodes of ourdesire. So bare and live the etherhummed like a swarm inside the air.

deNiord's language reaches lyrical heights, fully attuned to natural imagery to touch upon the subject of desire in bare and direct language. The speaker's memories continue as he puts together pieces of ideas from earlier poems, such as in "After the Storm." He claims:

I was disappeared...


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pp. 180-182
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