Bird & Forest

Brent Cunningham, Author . Ugly Duckling $10 (104p) ISBN 978-1-933254-06-7

Ancient Roman rhetoric meets postmodern angst and continental philosophy in this ambitious, intentionally self-conscious and verbose debut. A lineated "prelude" and closing "reprise" notwithstanding, Cunningham arranges the volume into four sequences composed largely in clever, disorienting, poetic prose. The first, a series of 12 "orations," shuffles urbane contemporary contents into a pastiche of Ciceronian style: "Let's therefore speak directly and plainly, O my community," it opines. "Would it kill me to simply say: I have never understood others, my father was in management, and it is 5:15 in the evening?" The next sequence follows a representative "bird" through challenges and questions about the shape of history and the contradictions behind any idea of individual voice. Cunningham here resembles his peers less than he resembles Hélène Cixous and Maurice Blanchot, attempting at once to convey a vision and to deconstruct it: "If we prefer our bird to be the soul, the forest will leaden and concretize itself." One lyrical essay personifies "The Future," while another emulates 19th-century prose, positing a "Demon Hierarchy of the French Philosophers." Cunningham's searching intelligence may lead some readers to cherish this book directly and intensely; others may find it cerebral and byzantine, like an avian mind within a darkened wood. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 08/15/2005
Release date: 01/01/2005
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