cover image Nouns & Verbs: New and Selected Poems

Nouns & Verbs: New and Selected Poems

Campbell McGrath. Ecco, $24.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-285414-8

With an open heart, a skeptical eye, and feet planted firmly in American soil (which holds “infant ferns,” “bulldozed stockyards,” and “pink cigarette lighters”), McGrath lets the world—from locusts in Manitoba (“an ancient horde of implacable charioteers”) to decapitated icons in Rosarito Beach, Mexico—wash over him. Leading off with a book-length set of new poems, McGrath has culled from eight of his previous 10 collections in the four sections that follow. In a mix of long-line lyric poems, short poems and prose poems, McGrath inspects all that goes by. He locks eyes with a toad (whose eyes “are gold, brilliant and metallic,// like moon-lander foil hammered over robotic orbs”) but can’t do the same with a sea turtle, who is “like the barnacled hull of an overturned rowboat” with “sinewy stumps where the flippers should be” (they have been cut off for soup). Other poems include “Reading Emily Dickinson at Jiffy Lube” (“Praise images that leap from the mind like ninjas!”) and the book’s closer, “Campbell McGrath,” a three-page piece built around a journey through towns named Campbell and McGrath (“All maps are useless now./ These final steps must be taken alone”). McGrath is intelligent company, his poems exhibiting a curious, sometimes furious mind tuning into the “literal noise of our culture,” both violent and beautiful. [em](Apr.) [/em]