Forbidden Entries

John Yau, Author
John Yau, Author Black Sparrow Press $16.95 (0p) ISBN 978-1-57423-016-1
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
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The latest collection from poet, short-story writer and art critic Yau is heavily weighted to prose poems dense with description and extensive linguistic flexing. Trading narrative line for phantasmagoria, the prose poems fail when Yau's ideas are buried under ostentatious phrases, stretched usage and layered images. Only occasionally are we given a grounding, reassuring glimpse of the speaker: ""Didn't I used to/ look in the mirror each morning?"" While one of Yau's strengths is his humor (""For the first time the woman notices him and says: You little punctured zygote""), lightness of touch is lost in compressed, overpacked paragraphs and an eclectic swirl of image and association in the prose poems. Best here are the verse poems, syntactically spare and livened by verbal puns, including one in which he plays Scrabble with the words ""Mona Lisa"": ""Maison Al/ Oils Amna/ No Salami/ Ails Noma."" The deceptively breezy stanzas of the Gengis Chan series evoke stories through assonance and slant rhymes: ""Makes fist/ first steps."" Reflecting Yau's structural range from couplets to dense paragraphs, the poems vary in tone from playful enigma to seemingly idle blathering. (Dec.)
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