First Fire, Then Birds: Obsessionals 1985-2010

H.L. Hix, Etruscan (Consortium, dist.), $27.95 (300p) ISBN 978-0-9819687-4-2
Sometimes achingly beautiful in their accumulated details, sometimes grisly and violent, and sometimes tersely intellectual, Hix's collections have always been hard to forget: since his debut with the sonnets of Perfect Hell (1996), his books have differed greatly one from another, each with its signature long poem or sequence—100 snapshotlike poems about love and sex ("Orders of Magnitude"), enticingly baffling fragments of dialect verse ("Eighteen Maniacs"), a set of repetitive prose preludes and verse fugues ("The Well-Tempered Clavier"), even a truly gripping narrative (called, grimly, "A Manual of Happiness"), based loosely on the Book of Job, about a father repeatedly struck by lightning and his children's violent deaths. Formalists cherish Hix's frequent meter and rhyme; devotees of experiment enjoy the bizarre disjunctions and the philosophical demands. This retrospective shuffles individual poems and sequences from his first seven books to good effect, out of chronological order (along with aphorisms from a book of prose). Hix may make new readers' heads spin with his changes of focus, but he also gives them the chance to see his work whole. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/25/2010
Release date: 10/01/2010
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