FIGMENT

Rebecca Wolff, Author . Norton $23.95 (108p) ISBN 978-0-393-05918-2

Though she won admiration for the fast-moving verse of Manderley (a Robert Pinsky pick for the National Poetry Series), Wolff remains best-known as a founder and editor of Fence , the New York–based journal and press that continues to put forth a constellation of hip, evasive, challenging young poets often called "elliptical." This second collection highlights some of the verse techniques readers of Fence might expect: its scenes and fragments are urbane, knowing, always alert to irony, particularly when gender-related: "If I could only learn to make the perfect skirt/ I would never work again," the first poem notes. The work that follows projects a vivid wit that at its best perfectly skirts prose sense and story, promising instead "to kiss you/ smack on the vocabulary." Wolff's recurrent subjects include motherhood, Manhattan and the Atlantic Coast, as well as the white-collar workplace, where lyric often fears to tread. One poem, called (with a wink) "I walk the property line" takes a break to explore a "Dark shade/ on the patch of grass where// I'm who I always wanted to be." At the end of a sequence of lyrics, Wolff's speaker announces "I am the genie of self-critique," and takes "a militant stance against encroaching/ cynicism." Taking simultaneous shots at militancy and cynicism is part of this book's main dynamic; in a space where "It all happens so fast—/ ovulation, creation, cremation," a variety of poses, or figments, may seem all that is left. Wolff's poems manage to make embracing them seem like a genuine possibility. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/22/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 108 pages - 978-0-393-32761-8
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