Laura Moriarty's Self-Destruction (Sausolito: Post-Apollo, 2004). Laura Moriarty enters the third decade of her career—Two Cross Seizings in 1980 was followed by the better known Persia in 1983—with an exciting book that carries forward the penchant for splitting, doubling, and twinning seen in Symmetries (1996) and presses the enigmatic handling of narrative fragments first perfected in the brilliant and bewildering Nude Memoir (2001) into new territory ("He is against themes or me having them"). If the specter of Marcel Duchamp presided over Moriarty's recent volumes—the disjunctive detective work of Nude Memoir set out from the premise that Étant Donnée depicts a crime scene, while the fractured hermetic network of "The Large Glass" was a crucial model for Symmetries—the drive to "self-destruction" is aptly overseen by the ghost of Jack Spicer, the secular martyr to the tautological structure of language whose innovative use of serial forms and whose signature tropes—the radio (as figure for the poet), the moon (all-seeing eye of a gone God), the ocean (whose noise, like poetry's, needs no audience), Mars and Martians (site and cipher for the alien and the unknowable)—serve as points of departure for Moriarty's densely-patterned, obliquely-framed glimpses of the self as it shades into and is sometimes eclipsed by the other. The book 's two unevenly sized sections form an asymmetrical diptych of sorts. The long first section, "My Disappearance," unfolds over the course of seventy-two poems, some in chiseled stanzaic forms that rival Robert Creeley at his intricately sounded best, others in prose paragraphs favoring opacity, incompleteness, and indeterminacy. The topography of this section is the familiar yet alienating one of hotel rooms (associated with privacy, anonymity, and eroticism), convention halls (teeming, commercialized, disorienting), and the transportation hubs that serve to move the "Mental Traveler between / Arrivals" ("Sycorax Inside"). Returning repeatedly to the ways in which war and empire form the untranscendable horizon of subjective experience, these poems are remorseless and poignant at once: "I don't miss my friends / Who have become unknown to me / The truth can't be communicated / The war keeps us in touch" ("Missing"). The second section, only a third as long as the first, counts among its eleven poems a thirteen-page meditation on "Cryptophasia"— the scientific term refers to the language twins often concoct to communicate with one another—that synthesizes many of the book's most persistent themes and weaves in numerous citations from other writers (John Wilkinson, Brent Cunningham, Giorgio Agamben, Taylor Brady, Karl Polanyi, John Taine, Gail Scott). Starkly non-identical, these twin sections add up to one of the best books to be published so far this year. [2004-35]

Pascalle Monnier's Bayart, trans. Cole Swensen (New York: Black Square, 2002). A meditation in four seasons on the life/myth of the 16th-century French knight named in the title, Monnier's sifting of archival traces calls to mind a quieted-down Cantos, one from which the bombast and nostalgia have been subtracted, but also some of the verve. Swensen's able translation delivers intact the rhythmically overlapping syntagms of Monnier's subtle phrasal poetics. [2002-24]

George Elliott Clarke's Blue (Vancouver: Polestar, 2002). These poems aim to be "incendiary," but such heat as they give off seems curiously second-hand as invectives "in the manner of" writers like Baraka and Pound come off as, well, mannered. Many of the poems in this overlong collection allude to alchohol, slide at least once into Quebecois French, exhibit some color symbolism—often with racial overtones—and draw on a semantic register that favors the profane, the taboo, and the excremental. Clarke's prosody is loosely Ginsbergian, though strings of compound adjectives here and there build to a logic-defying momentum worthy of Césaire. The whole project has the air of something that could or should work better than it does, but at the risk of confirming the scholar-poet Clark's distrust of critics (see "Blue Elegies" iii.i-iv), I'd have to say that the misfires outnumber the hits in this collection. [2002-23]

Beth Anderson's Hazard (Los Angeles: Poetic Research Bureau, 2002). The twenty poems (four sequences of five each) in this handsomely-designed chapbook follow an identical stanzaic pattern, one ample and intricate enough to admit of significant variations while also permitting the reader to experience a kind of peripheral or intermittent consciousness of structure (that pattern, counted out in lines-per-stanza, is: 1-3-2-3-2-3-2-3-1). Anderson is a master of the syntactic measure, blending novelistic and essayistic tones with first-person statements that retain a cool observational air without ever feeling aloof. There is an evenness to the distribution of "event" in these texts that defies thematization, but word-by-word the construction is so sharply focused that it comes as a surprise when one finally has to admit at poem's end that what has happened remains a mystery. "To confirm that this, as every universe, // moves according to an intrinsic unplanned order / has taken hours." [2002-23]

Philip Jenks's On the Cave You Live In (Chicago: Flood, 2002). Jenks reads like a transitional figure between the now defunct apex of the m and the current (if furtive) Faucheuse. His first book tucks thoughts of God and memories of the South into the apprehensive intervals between epileptic seizures. The loose interconnectedness of the poems recalls Fauchuese editor Jeff Clark's The Little Door Slides Back (which itself reads a little like a condensed gothic novel) and the care for sonic patterning—rich assonance and consonance in short lines that often omit all function words—recalls fellow Flood author Pam Rehm's recent Gone to Earth. The mood in this slim but substantial debut is dark, the speaker damaged, the exits from the cave anything but clearly marked. "Plumes of garbage / mixed w/dead body photos / she got darkroom, carnival. / I made me get naked for it / show my ink // seen, not shown" ("Angela"). [2002-23]

Harryette Mullen's Sleeping with the Dictionary (Berkeley: U of California P, 2002). There are fifty-seven poems in this OuLiPo-inspired collection by the author of Trimmings and S*PeRM**K*T, and some of them—"Denigration," "Junk Mail," "She Swam on from Sea to Shine," "Swift Tommy," "We are not Responsible," and the title poem—shake something fascinating out of their procedures. Almost all the others shimmer for at least a moment, but as happens so often in the "literature of constraint" there are stretches where the riffs feel rote and a reader feels awkwardly beside the text's point. [2002-23]

Kim Rosenfield's Rare Earth: A Play in Some Acts (Primary Writing 27: April 2002). Cosmetics ad-copy comes to life in this quick and mildly funny micro-play first performed in 1995 at St. Mark's Church. "Sexy sexism. / Good bye lizard lips! / The drought is over / Your lips stay looking rich. And moist. / And very very human." Makes an interesting companion piece to the second section of Bruce Andrews's Lip Service, which draws heavily on the lore/lure of femininity as a figment of patriarchal capitalism. [2002-23]

Karen Weiser's Eight Positive Trees (Boston: Pressed Wafer, 2002). A chapbook comprising two poems, the strangely syntaxed "Out the Body There Are Planned Things" (dedicated to Fanny Howe) and the multi-part elegy "Eight Positive Trees." There is an unfocused, if not evasive, feel to the opening poem that the second poem fixes—less in the sense of correcting than of repairing—when the speaker situates herself as one of four sisters who have lost both of their parents to a sudden accident. Finding an objective correlative for the complex emotional state in which she's been stranded becomes an act equally of artistic construction and psychological reconstruction. [2002-23]

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