The Book of Faces

Joseph Campana, Author Graywolf Press $14 (119p) ISBN 978-1-55597-433-6
There is obsession and then there is Obsession. Taking the thematic poetry collection to its extreme, Campana's debut approaches Audrey Hepburn from every possible angle. She is paramour, foil, touchstone, teacher, queen and, ultimately, a way to talk about the act of making a self (and a poem). Despite (or perhaps because of) the singular subject, Campana's poems take all manner of forms-including a canzone, sonnets, an abecedarian romp, lists, dramatic monologues, even a concrete poem in the shape of his idol's initials-and draw on a wide array of intellectual and literary figures such as Catullus, Foucault, Ginsberg and Barthes. Campana often relies on repetition and semantic and syntactical misdirection to keep the reader off-balance and blur the lines between Hepburn and other figures. This works to great effect in poems like ""A History of Idolatry,"" which asks ""When one becomes a fashion has one in fact been fashioned?"" It can, however, also fizzle (""Stamp me and mail me and send me away"") or be needlessly obscure (""I beast myself now you've flown""). Readers willing to see so much poetic and emotional weight invested in Hepburn-and in the ubiquitous ""you"" who is both her and not her-will find plenty of moments to admire. Even so, this is not a project that is above questioning itself and its icon, as Campana himself demonstrates late in the book when he writes: ""So yes, I said, yes, this is / another damned Audrey Hepburn poem. / Why the hell are you still with me?""
Reviewed on: 10/31/2005
Release date: 11/01/2005
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