If the Tabloids Are True What Are You?

Matthea Harvey. Graywolf (FSG, dist.), $25 (160p) ISBN 978-1-55597-684-2
Harvey (Modern Life) delivers an ambitious and inventive new collection that straddles the line between poetry and art book. Brilliant strings of weird imagery and narrative yield unlikely resonances and stir fresh emotions in the reader, and are reinforced by the poems’ intellectual cores. Readers familiar with Harvey’s work will find a continuation of her project here, but buffered and made even more pleasurable by its visual elements. Prose poems about mermaids are paired with bizarre silhouettes of half-woman-half-tool creatures; miniature chairs and figurines are frozen in blocks of ice and then photographed; and an erasure of a Rad Bradbury text is remade into a sad and sparse tale of a Martian, a “dirty flub funny lump with eyes.” Harvey’s work rarely strays far from whimsy, but she manages to channel her playfulness for complex and even wrenching effects: “I had been a finch filled/ with certainty until the end of the talk/ about the universe at which point I was just/ a diminutive coo lost in the bamboo, an or/ in a grove I thought was mine. The others too./ We fell backward into dreaming.” Oh, to be a bird here, a sad and beautiful place you won’t want to leave. Color images. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/16/2014
Release date: 08/19/2014
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