At the core of Under the Sign, Ann Lauterbach’s ninth poetry collection, is a multitudinous us manqué, a wayward Whitmanic we. As she has throughout her exacting oeuvre, a body of work that includes abundant criticism and collaborations with artists, Lauterbach maintains a vigilance for others and other things so consistently curious as to define a poetics of radical, plural caring: “For to make something,” she writes, “is to care for it.” Lauterbach’s poetry is not hobbled—or hobgoblined—by this consistent emphasis on caring; it is enlarged and opened up by it. For almost four decades, she has kept asking, in poem after allusive poem, how wisdom arrives, how senses make sense, how art matters and happens—and what love, and loss, have to do with it.
Posing and composing her poems’ searching questions, Lauterbach hazards some answers. Her partial, even haphazard, responses contain and address our shifting, provisional, accident-prone reality; her impartial, open-ended responses clear the air for further wondering. Lauterbach believes such detached “whole fragments” are worth listening to and waiting for, worth tending. By definition and by design, they cannot wholly satisfy us or the poet, so she must continue her inquiry, the expansive opening up that is her iterated task.