The Review of Contemporary Fiction
June 22, 2007
Pg. 151(1) Vol. 27 No. 2 ISSN: 0276-0045

Book review by Joseph Dewey


Upon seeing an exquisitely wrought statue of, say, a horse, most would see the horse, few would see the marble. So it is with sounds, crude if musical, audaciously coaxed into words. Here is a gathering of language exercises, poems that constrain language by preset obligations, intricate, inventive, demanding directives (words juxtaposed within a line must share a vowel; each line must contain all 26 letters; each successive line must contain one additional letter); here is, in short, an intemperate delight in the marble. The volume--there areno editors listed and the author's "name" is a glorious fabrication--provides a glossary should the careful eye fail to perceive the imbedded patterns. If the challenge is to uncover the design, the glossary may seem intrusive, like a tacky magician distributing a lame handbook of magic tricks to patrons during a show; but in practice the guidelines only help clarify the exotic designs (among them, liponymns, haicoups, and pangrams), like taking a backstage tour of Disneyworld.Of course, language so precisely sculpted must struggle against appearing oppressively clever--a poem that "must" use all the consonants once before repeating any can seem a sterile thing. Only news poems collaged from current events even acknowledge the real world. What we are given, rather, is the compelling it-ness of language liberated from the tedious expectations of mimesis and narrative, language played with brio and elegance. Language thus constrained may depress some readers, like seeing some magnificent jungle animal caged. These are acts, such readers sniff, but not art. But language here is far from restrained--it is disciplined, wily, animated, resourceful, in turn nonsensical and musical, but supremely vital, dazzling to confront ("read" is not quite the verb), sculpted lines smeary with fingerprints, stunned by the audacity of their own construction.

September 18, 2007

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