The Sore Throat and Other Poems

Aaron Kunin, Author . Fence $16 (125p) ISBN 978-1-934200-34-6

Obsessive tics, habits, and mathematico-linguistic games lie behind some of the forms in Kunin's persistently fascinating, if occasionally appalling, sophomore effort, composed (the foreword says) with a “limited vocabulary” of 170-200 words, including very common verbs and pronouns, but also “dollar,” “laughter,” and “rat.” “I'm inventing a machine,” Kunin says, “for concealing my desire”: his poems reveal, instead, the way that all desire, all human action, can make people look and sound oddly like machines. Kunin announces his ambition to expand the reach of the language: “It must be possible,” he writes, “otherwise// We would not have a word for it.” His estranged quatrains and nearly affectless prose poems, reaching back to the poetry of Samuel Beckett and to the early days of computer science, produce effects American poets could not have imagined before. For every passage that seems at first hard to decode, controlled wholly by absurd procedures, Kunin adds one that seems confrontationally pellucid. He is an experimental poet, but also an aphorist, even an insult comic: “You are good for seeing and pleasure; your good habits are talking and laughter,” one page concludes. “I wonder why you are weeping with your brother, the moron.” (May)

Reviewed on: 04/19/2010
Release date: 04/01/2010
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