By Roger Mitchell
In Half/Mask, Roger Mitchell goes in search of the magic that remains when the world is stripped down to “an inhospitable beauty.” Many of these starkly lyrical poems explore the human and natural communities found on tundra and borrow freely from the great narrative and sculptural traditions of the Inuit and other rugged people who have learned to live intensely under challenging conditions. Whether in the High Arctic or in different places “where human life . . . has a loose fit,” Mitchell discovers a land rich in imagery and metaphor for describing experience at a fundamental level, out at the edge of what we can know: “Alone and far away, remote, a step / or two beyond human, real being.” An effort to understand and sympathetically inhabit the earth drives these poems, even in the barren isolation of their settings, and gives to Half/Mask its emotional resonance.