AMERICAN INCIDENT

Brian Henry, Author . Salt $13.95 (172p) ISBN 978-1-876857-52-3

This capacious third volume from a much-remarked young poet-critic offers versatility, up-to-the-minute references, and edgy verbal fireworks framed by a remarkable range of forms. Henry begins with a series of almost flirtatiously indirect short poems, declaring in "Marginalia" "I promise to get concrete real quick." Soon enough come the first of several dozen distantly related prose poems, all entitled "Patricide in C Minor," and tantalizingly like fragments of a (racy, fast-moving, somewhat confusing) novel. Other offerings include a several-page script for solo theatrical performance; monostichs and distichs; a pantoun composed entirely of quotations from George W. Bush ("Beating Around the Bush"); and the quiet, brusque short poems of the title sequence. Most of the book, however, comprises aggressively digressive personal lyric, stylistically reminiscent of Susan Wheeler, Dean Young, or the Australian poet John Tranter. Frequent subjects include sex and male lust; youth and travel; writing and writing programs. Henry (Astronaut) makes his self-consciousness the foundation for everything else his art attempts: he writes that "artifice's mirror includes itself/ in what it reflects; it shares the blame." A later poem asks "How often do I need to say persona, persona, persona." If detractors will find such moves showoffy or unserious, others will find them virtuosic and exciting. The volume represents an advance on Henry's previous poetry not only in its startling quantity, but also in its quality: it will match, and perhaps extend, his growing transatlantic reputation. (Dec.)

Forecast:Henry, who now directs the creative writing program at the University of Georgia, has made a reputation in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia (where he has lived) as a reviewer, and as a co-editor of Verse magazine and Verse Press. His critical and editorial work guarantees his new poems broad notice within the poetry world, and may bring overdue attention to Australia's Salt.

Reviewed on: 12/23/2002
Release date: 11/01/2002
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