Assorted Poems

Susan Wheeler, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $25 (160p) ISBN 978-0-374-25861-0

Enticingly strange, and only occasionally incomprehensible, the vertiginous cityscapes, dissonant songs and fractured chronicles in Wheeler’s verse, generously sampled in this selection from her four books, have attracted attention since her 1993 debut Bag o’ Diamonds , whose jumpy verse offered, among other properties, “several years of careful steps across/ lower Manhattan. A looming sail in a nightmare.” Subsequent volumes added songlike refrains and disturbing bits of Southern dialect, to a speaking self pressed and twisted to its limits: “The crux is alive at the fork of me.” Cartoons and caricatures, pleas and imprecations, fall together in Wheeler’s disturbing vortices. Just when her circumlocutions threaten to collapse into a shtick, she expands her range, and changes focus, in the exciting longer poems of Ledger (2005): more explicit in their attentions to history and to political economy, these poems use collage to follow the fates of their characters—the best of them juxtapose the poet’s memories of her teenage shoplifting with scenes from the long-ago birth of the Dutch bourgeoisie. Two new poems cap the volume, Wheeler’s first appearance from a New York trade press. If the selection’s assorted registers, leaps and postmodern disconnections will baffle some readers, it should delight others ready for her smart effects. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/16/2009
Release date: 03/01/2009
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 143 pages - 978-0-374-53217-8
Hardcover - 160 pages - 978-1-907773-31-0
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