The Cineaste

A Van Jordan. Norton, $26.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-393-23915-7
“Movies provide my last safe playground,” writes Van Jordan in his fourth collection. Drawn from his experience as a moviegoer, these poems prove anything but safe—each film is its own playground of dangers, of “strangers who mistake me for someone/ they owe.” The collection spans surrealist works such as Un Chien Andalou (of which Van Jordan writes, in his notes, “I won’t pretend to understand this film...but I do understand how it makes me feel when I see it,”) to Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. The connection is this poet’s interest in the “voyeur,” a theme enacted both through his role as a spectator and through his characters’ consciousnesses: “I love staring, too,/ at how the most public spaces turn/ intimate after dark”; “I look/ and want to recall the first look.” While Van Jordan plays with voice and register, the poems lean towards formal syntax and presentation; tercets and couplets belie the experimental content of the films the poems riff on. The collection’s middle section, a sonnet sequence based on Homesteader (the 1919 film by Oscar Micheaux), does a particularly fine job of turning the moviegoer’s public experience into private reverie without forgoing narrative and subtext, illustrating Van Jordan’s keen skill with “The tenderness of truth reworked, retold—.” (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/25/2013
Release date: 04/01/2013
Open Ebook - 160 pages - 978-0-393-24029-0
Paperback - 133 pages - 978-0-393-34873-6
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