I spent about $400 on books in Denver. This was the first I read the second I got home: Joe Hall’s Pigafetta Is My Wife. It is gorgeous, mysterious, and moving, in a way I haven’t felt of a book in a long time. I’m keeping it by my bed.
Pigafetta Is My Wife enters the crisis that is the love between the colonizer and the colonized. These poems fragment the journals of Antonio Pigafetta, a 16th Century traveler who recorded Magellan’s hellish circumnavigation of the globe, while tracking a present-day speaker and his beloved as they are distanced and reunited across the map. Along the way we visit historical moments including a botched circumcision as performance art, the Rape of Nanking, and 17th century missionaries in the Philippines. Through this intertwining of narratives the book reveals how the past and present are visceral beasts caught in a cycle of passion and destruction. Like an epic murder ballad, Hall moves from collage to epistle, suffering to ecstasy, while pinpointing what is at stake in the pursuit of love and the dismantling of the self.
Praise for Pigafetta Is My Wife:“A genuinely fine work, moving beautifully between Magellan’s voyage—the ethics therein, with language informed by discovery literature—and a series of epistles, taking the notion of circumnavigation to an unforeseeable confessional level. I like the work very much—that making necessary of history—and see it as one of lyric poetry’s responsibilities. The epilogues, too, are beautiful.”—Dan Beachy-Quick“Almost impossibly grand in scope Pigafetta Is My Wife is a rare achievement and quite a debut. Hall’s poetry crosses contemporary love and ancient epic, folding inward and out by motion derivative of the sestina and pantoum, so that whether via image or address, beautiful shards fall: ‘A chrysanthemum blossom sails across a bowl of milk.’ Emotion accretes in accordance with ambition. A treatise on the action of discovery, this is a book to be taken in whole.”—Sally Keith
Read some poems from the book here.
Read a poem not in this book here.
Buy this book direct from Black Ocean here.