Lotion Bullwhip Giraffe

Tan Lin, Author
Tan Lin, Author Sun and Moon Press $10.95 (110p) ISBN 978-1-55713-258-1
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Lin's debut collection can aptly be called ""language"" poetry, for it playfully manipulates language's mechanics, turning semantic inconsistencies into opportunities for aural delight. While he is identified here as a Chinese-American poet and University of Virginia faculty member, such labels are not part of Lin's lexicon. The ""I"" of these poems is made from the gleeful associations that seem to arise naturally out of words (""say, scream, scrim, savvy,/ sexy, sinful, scintillating,/ scared, separated, spent,/ slippery, slack, slapped"") and which may turn out to be empty, meaningful or inscrutable--and funny: ""In early 1983 Caravelle was the name of a Dodge Mini-Van and a girl."" While working the gaps between writer and reader by way of pop culture is fairly common, Lin's efforts carry elegant tonal inflections and possess a lyric sense that coaxes readers on: ""Options bark apart like rubies. I touch/ my wrist into everything, a painting,// a star's rust in a room, everything/ flaps from horror, in the flame// your fine chipped/ hands or shoulders."" Many of the poems and prose pieces read like cut-up bits of consciousness held together by sound and the boundaries of the page: ""Crippled inks./ Flavor of milk imposters,// resumption of the cuff-link./ A bee hems the horizon or swordtail."" Some readers may rejoice in the multitude of possible meanings; others will see a steadfast refusal to articulate emotions within the language. (Sept.)
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