Little-Known Sports

Vern Rutsala, Author
Vern Rutsala, Author University of Massachusetts Press $20 (0p) ISBN 978-0-87023-917-5
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This sequence of prose poems, Rutsala's first book since Collected Poems (1991), and a recipient of the Juniper Prize, concerns itself with defining and redefining worldly objects and actions. Subjects range from emotions, in the opening sequence, to a dust mop as interpreted by an anthropological eye in the section titled ``Bestiary.'' The general danger of Rutsala's impulse to define and redefine is its propensity to turn a writer into a candidate for the mantle of a second-rate Bishop. For example, the wry didacticism of his first-person-plural poems can come across sometimes as distant, as in the one-line poem ``Paperclip'': ``We persist in baiting this dull hook with page after page, yet we catch nothing.'' He sometimes makes the mistake of assuming that readers share his prejudices. Thus, his attempts to ingratiate may flop, especially when he adopts the cliched pose of the artist who disdains the powerful: the politician, ``the editor, dean, chairman, provost.'' But Rutsala's precision and humor sporadically redeem his work. Articulate, comprehensive, evocative poems, informed by a weird imagination, demonstrate that beneath the pretense and the conspiratorial wink, poetry emerges. (June)
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