Song & Error

Averill Curdy, Author
Averill Curdy. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23 (96p) ISBN 978-0-374-28061-1
Reviewed on: 12/24/2012
Release date: 03/19/2013
Open Ebook - 112 pages - 978-1-4668-8069-6
Paperback - 95 pages - 978-0-374-53432-5
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This first book from Curdy gets elaborate fast without sacrificing passion. Scenes from modern life outdoors and indoors—a “Sparrow Trapped in the Airport,” a dying salmon, a young beauty killed by a truck bomb—stand beside longer poems based on historical characters, among them Thomas Jefferson, John Ruskin, and the Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca. Curdy favors gorgeous language and complex syntax, sometimes abstract but more often descriptive. A lizard on a laptop represents “the digital evergreen of failing pulses”; a seabird in the Jamestown colony shows a “gray wick-threaded throat/ Burning the oil secreted, an amber musk/ Of uncompassed seas & the solitary hunt,/ Of error & sign.” Yet Curdy’s voices can get stark, even frightening: “My sister/ was safe when I was beautiful,” says one speaker from beyond the grave. Her historical figures can disappoint, sounding too fond of their own words. Her shorter poems, though, and almost all those set in the present, convince by their cascade of phrases, their wealth of detail, reminiscent of Amy Clampitt and Lucie Brock-Broido, whether in a “Single Room,” “reaching/ For something, for anything,” or on an urban roof, “With the linden’s melon scent twined/ Around an untuned engine’s blue carbon/ Monoxide and Wednesday’s trash.” (Apr.)
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