Complex Sleep

Tony Tost, Author . Univ. of Iowa Press $16 (106p) ISBN 978-1-58729-621-5

The eight sequences of Tost's sophomore effort are brimming with ambition and, with unusual maturity for an emerging poet, they grapple with looming questions of form, perception and the role of poetry. Whitman Award–winner Tost (Invisible Bride ) shares with Charles Olson (whose work casts a formidable shadow over this collection) the desire to use the poem as a place of experiment, as a place to enact rather than describe. Whether this is done through investigations into representing an authentic self (“By over-quoting my sources I have revealed only myself.”) or through similarly reflexive aphoristic quips (“A dying form knows/ that not everything translucent/ is transcendent.”), Tost's work synthesizes 20th-century avant-garde strategies, from objectivist and Black Mountain poetics through language writing and conceptual poetry, with nods to Emerson and deconstruction. Lines and sentences comment on their own creation (“The problem with syntax, the problem with giving, she stood on one foot, and imagined a future.”). The standout pieces here are the musically infused “World Jelly” and the 35-page title poem, which is an abecedarian orchestration of sentences by turns humorous, poignant and cerebral. This challenging book won't be for everyone, but it is likely to take the tops of more than a few heads off. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/17/2007
Release date: 10/01/2007
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