The Cold War

Kathleen Ossip, Author
Kathleen Ossip. Sarabande (Consortium, dist.), $14.95 (96p) ISBN 978-1-932511-95-6
Reviewed on: 04/18/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
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Ossip's long-awaited second book is a surprisingpoetic powerhouse that interweaves the personal and the political in ways that are as aesthetically exciting as they are emotionally rich. The book opens with a jumpy ode on melancholy that takes off, as two of the best of these poems do, from a hefty quote from a weighty book (in this poem's case Karl Menninger's The Human Mind) and the words "In those days": "Melancholia, we cherished," writes Ossip, and, later, "The intellect's/ a pissy thing, a fortress." Here and elsewhere, Ossip deftly mixes linguistic registers in poems that blend aspects of confessional writing, social and literary criticism, and history. The book's centerpiece is the traumatized, post-9/11 "Document," a long series of sentences and fragments that attempt to manage an unshakable feeling of danger: "Put space between you and the attack. Oh fruity word!" Or the centerpiece might be the essay/ poetic sequence/ tribute called "The Nervousness of Yvor Winters," which takes off from Winters's life and work to finally ask the question, "Do we want to understand poems, or do we want poems that understand us?" The book gains other dimensions from further sequences and prose fables, such as "The Deer Path," in which "One deer sped by in a small, trucklike vehicle and shouted FUCK! at me through the open window in an unmistakably cruel way." Ossip is about to take the poetry world off guard with what is surely among the most various, powerful, and representative (of post-terror America) poetry collections of the past few years. (May)
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