The poems/prose pieces in SoundMachine are largely concerned with writing and parenting, and as a result I think I liked this book a bit less than I liked the other book of Zucker’s that I’ve read (The Pedestrians). But there’s still a lot of interesting stuff in SoundMachine, even if I find it less personally relatable. Writing and parenting, as Zucker talks about them, share a concern with/anxiety about attention: paying attention or not, what things we pay attention to or don’t, how we pay attention or don’t, speaking vs. listening, communicating or failing to communicate. I like how other books find their way into this book: Zucker talks about reading Laura Ingalls Wilder aloud to her kids, and about reading Tommy Pico to herself; she talks about To Kill a Mockingbird and the work of other poets. And there are pleasing phrases throughout: “The cars on Amsterdam Avenue are long waves of sound” (3). “What I like is the long, underwater glide as I push off from the wall” (34), “I watch the ride go on & on knowing it will stop” (48). “There’s a now to write into, a continuous present that the act of writing stretches across a canvas so to speak” (252). I mostly like the longer pieces best: the first piece, “Song of the Dark Room”, about a child who can’t sleep, is one of my favorites, as is the last piece, “Residency.” I find the diaristic nature of these and pieces like “Seven Beds Six Cities Eight Weeks” satisfying; I like how they incorporate so many everyday moments alongside the larger themes.

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