BLACK SERIES

Laurie Sheck, Author . Knopf $23 (112p) ISBN 978-0-375-41279-0

From the "irradiated mirrors" and "smooth unstartled mannequins" of its long title sequence to an impressive poem about art historians' radiography, Sheck's fourth collection presents intricate verbal surfaces, with pointers to elaborate philosophical depths. Unfortunately the surfaces, and the depths, most often seem borrowed from another contemporary poet, Jorie Graham. "How silent the unbecoming is, how silent the unraveling," Sheck writes in her title sequence, in phrases sure to recall Graham's The End of Beauty. Other poems seem to pick up, or try to rewrite, Graham's best-known single poems (one about Pascal's coat, another about Orpheus and Eurydice, another about a subway). Her influence shows in dramatic description of light and shadow ("bright/ chaos of atomized instances"), in rhetorical questions and portmanteau words ("What inside me will finance the trepass, the unprisoning?"), in her fleets of abstract nouns ("Immobilism leaned down tall in her black dress"), in allusions to the language of film, even in titles borrowed from Tudor poetry: matching Graham's "Of Forced Sights and Trusty Ferefulness," Sheck has "To Tell Him Tydings How the Wind Was Went." Sheck (The Willow Grove) is hardly the only poet to mimic Graham's influential manner—her sawtooth-shaped stanzas, her Pascalian wagers, her rapt stutters and showstopping queries. "Doubt is a beautiful garment," Sheck declares, "if only I could wear it,/ all silk and ashes, on my skin." Her new verse shows undoubted ambition and charm; it may also give many readers the feeling that she's wearing someone else's clothes. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 11/01/2001
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FORMATS
Open Ebook - 112 pages - 978-0-307-51451-6
Paperback - 112 pages - 978-0-375-70965-4
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