Twin Cities

Carol Muske-Dukes. Penguin, $18 trade paper (84p) ISBN 978-0-14-311964-7
Even as she inhabits a mainstream of American culture focused on validating personal experience, Muske-Dukes stands out as a poet committed to lyrical intensity. The combination can be exhilarating, but it will occasionally frustrate more skeptical readers. There is an invigorating freedom and wit in lines like "Two dead friends are trumped/ By one late spouse" and "I'd rather imagine Catullus// Ranting in his brim-back ninth-inning cap," in which Muske-Dukes walks a tightrope over childhood, grief, sex, Hollywood, Minnesota, Beirut, and even poetry itself. For those who find a too-easy connection in those same lines, though, there is still what follows from her version of Catullus: "you're never going to feel better/ About losing the one person you never/ Wanted to lose," keen evidence of Muske-Dukes's ability to sharpen familiar subjects into something quick with feeling and perception. The book's title, which also belongs to three of its poems, suggests some of the neatness of Muske-Dukes's approach, which tends to see twos instead of either infinities or threes. But within that neatness she can still convincingly assert, "You could fail accurately at describing/ Your own life," a line whose startling accuracy is the deepest hallmark of this collection. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/20/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
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