RISING VENUS

Kelly Cherry, Author . Louisiana State Univ. $22.50 (80p) ISBN 978-0-8071-2767-4 ISBN 978-0-8071-2768-1

Though the likeable, troubling poems in her sixth collection demonstrate a considerable emotional range, Cherry is at her best and most memorable here when she writes about sex, loss and madness. "I want your needle stitching my wound./ I want you to lick the end of my thread," she writes in "Needle and Thread." And though she's often associated with formalists like Henry Taylor, she's independent in her decision to balance a strong need to rhyme with a taste for irregular (and nuanced) meter. As with her last outing, 1999's Death and Transfiguration (also from LSU), there are occasional miscues: a section of poems inspired by artworks doesn't overcome literary deadweight; a powerful sequence about being left by a married lover hiccups on its references: "And this is as it was to be, Beethoven/ Knew that." As with most Southern gothics, what's most awkward also turns out to be most effective: "God knows how many sessions/ With the doctor, his unclean breath hot on// My neck, haven't brought back/ The time I lost when the bottom of the grocery sack/ That is my mind fell out." And the gothic's cousin, the family romance ("Becoming My Mother," "The Final Visit with Her Brother"), requires from Cherry a plainspoken reserve that she hits perfectly, making this venus, on the whole, anything but retrograde. (Apr.)

Forecast:Cherry made the cover of Poets & Writers a while back, and career-wise is ready for her national close-up. This book's emotional investment, technical savvy and self-deprecating wit would be a hit with women's book clubs that liked Mary Karr's memoirs or Kim Addonizio's tough-talking life-and-love verse narratives. While often regionalist in scope, LSU has the distribution in place for it to happen.

Reviewed on: 03/18/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Paperback - 72 pages - 978-0-8071-2768-1
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