cover image Ultimatum from Paradise

Ultimatum from Paradise

Jacqueline Osherow. Louisiana State Univ., $18.95 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-0-8071-5806-7

Osherow (Whitethorn) guides her reader from a light-filled Penn Station to Antoni Gaudi's fluid creations, stopping along the way to casually contemplate memory and history in a seventh collection that contains an intricate architecture all its own. In Osherow's world, apartments and highrises are "a stack/ of colored/ rectangles" on the brink of toppling; a world where things we took for granted (a school-room clock, a train ride) suddenly spring forth in a story, part of a significant past. She explores the impact of Peter Behrens in an expertly rendered modified terza rima: "He would join the Nazi Party, but not until/ he'd reinvented design as industrial./ Even the clock, you know that quintessential/ black-rimmed clock we had at school,/ no-nonsense, ubiquitous, so simple/ you never even thought it had an origin?/ I saw its picture—a Behrens design." The collection's acrobatic formal range includes rhyme, chain-linked sonnets, and even a double abecedarian. Whether she's discussing architecture, history, or language within these rigid poetic forms, Osherow's genuine enthusiasm shines through; it must be her "love of wrought, elaborate things—/especially when they're the sort that sings." (Oct.)