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Allegheny, Monongahela : poems

by Erinn Batykefer

  Book : Poetry  |  1st ed

Skilled and memorable poetry   (2013-01-21)

Very Good

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by jcorelis

These are very impressive poems indeed, based largely on describing the relationship of two sisters in a typical family with knife-sharp, every-word-counts imagery as a vehicle for deep emotion brought sometimes to almost an unbearable tension by being kept under poetic discipline. There are some unforgettable lines, such as "a whisper / moving on iambs of blood." There's also an almost Wordsworthian or Blake-like ability to see the huge significance of ordinary things, such as in the lines "the livid frustration of things known -- / the apples lined up just so, red against white -- of things known but impossible to tell." Some very creative metaphoric passages explore the interpenetrating realities of landscape and personality. The poems, though part of a whole, for the most part possess a satisfying formal and emotional unity, and though most count as free verse, there is almost always a perceptible underlying rhythmical motif. There are also some subtly innovative formal experiments, such as in the poem "Eureka Vacuum," a semi-slant-rhymed sonnet which incidentally is one of the rare poems about childhood which presents what it's like to be a child rather than what an adult remembers it was like to be a child.

My admiration is not without reservations: sometimes poetic obscurity leads to the reader (or this reader anyway) becoming confused about the underlying narrative, and though the book shows that the prevailing confessional mode of contemporary verse isn't totally incompatible with excellent poetry, it hasn't changed my overall feeling that that mode has become mined out and should be junked. Still, I have to say that this is one of the few books published in the U.S. in the past few years by a poet who may eventually create a book of poetry I could give five stars to.

Recommended for everyone, especially people who have been frustrated by trying to find very current American poets who are worth getting excited about.  (Reviewed by Jon Corelis)




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