why/why not

Martha Ronk, Author . Univ. of California $34.95 (104p) ISBN 978-0-520-23623-3 ISBN 978-0-520-23811-4

The fifth verse outing from this L.A.–based poet and editor (Eyetrouble; State of Mind) tracks shock, enticement, frustration, disgust and wonder as emotions in super-slow motion, providing an almost synapse-by- synapse account: "Why is it the only question why really and why now and/ why didn't you come with me why did you put off as I thought/ all that had already gathered," she asks in "act 3." Ronk can produce precise images ("gasfumes rising in rainbows off the pavement"), but the poems' estranging voices remain in motion, complaining of "no interpretive data," or seeking "The cause for wandering through the fading light/ as occluded as one voice hidden from another." One speaker defends vertiginously lengthy lines—each a long phrase, many avoiding grammatical sentence forms—with the non-question "Did anyone say I didn't understand/ the way you talk... I talk the way I talk." The series that ends the book organizes such sonnet-sized meditations first into a set of 12 ("why") and then into nine short-lined diptychs ("why not"), landing somewhere between a wiretap transcript and a deconstructed lyric sequence. Admirers will compare Ronk to Beckett or Stein, while detractors will ask how (and whether) her many fragments fit together. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/17/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
Hardcover - 104 pages - 978-0-520-23623-3
Open Ebook - 104 pages - 978-0-520-93711-6
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