THE VIOLENCE OF THE MORNING
A veteran literary critic, Bedient published his debut collection—the apocalyptically rhetorical, sometimes chaotic and insistently sexual Candy Necklace—in 1999. In this follow-up, single poems pursue elaborate jokes ("Was It [painter Frank] Stella, or Was It [the poet's Aunt] Stella?") or follow the musings and visions of Romantic and modern painters: "Corot,/ smock-whited frog prince"; "the sal-/ vadordalliance of my dreams"; and above all Jack Butler Yeats (W.B.'s brother), whose letters and canvases spark several of Bedient's poems. Most frequently Bedient combines 1990s-style collage and cut-up structures with the primal bodily interests of earlier poets like Theodore Roethke and Dylan Thomas. "Jove's Thunder but a Murmur in the Leaves" considers Apollo's "whole days with Hyacinthus" as "jack-juice/ outlaws"; "Crushed Cargo" exclaims, "Men, don't be shy. Sink your naked bodies into a tub of quartered oranges." Some of these jagged poems and series pursue exuberance to the point of glibness, turning ostensible subjects into excuses. Others, however, summon impressive shards of a personal apocalypse: "I saw the pins removed from the meat and sky... Pink scrotum nailed to the post by older boys." "When the Gods Put On Meter" (included in last year's Best American Poetry) joins outrage to subtle weeping as it recalls the last years of the speaker's mother. At very least in this sophomore effort, Bedient shows a great gift for single, striking lines. (June)
Forecast:A full professor at UCLA with multiple critical books on modernism to his credit (including He Do the Police in Different Voices: The Wasteland and Its Protagonist), an editor of the University of California's poetry series and a prolific reviewer of titles by younger writers, Bedient is a go-to guy in poetry. Look for attention in multiple little magazines and strong sales on campus.