cover image Wobble


Rae Armantrout. Wesleyan Univ., $24.95 (144p) ISBN 978-0-8195-7823-5

Armantrout (Entanglements) probes the place of sincerity in a post-modern cultural landscape in this formally dexterous and conceptually daring collection. Taking the form of prose poems, spare lyrics, sequences, and provocative hybrids, the individual pieces in this volume unify through an interest in technology and its role in shaping how humans inhabit language and affect. Armantrout observes how "blogs, Facebook,/ and Instagram/ have replaced poetry as ways of taking/ the private public." As the collection unfolds, she frames language—and the relationship to psychic landscapes that language maps—as increasingly self-conscious and performative, informed by people's ongoing awareness of an audience. In "Audience," Armantrout elaborates, "Zipper fracture/ involves simultaneous/ stimulation of parallel/ horizontal wells." She gestures at the ways new technologies have given rise to a split subject, with individual consciousness dominated by the presence of others. What's remarkable about Armantrout's poetry is how she visibly enacts this fracturing—and the way conscious experience is becoming increasingly social—n the style of the writing itself. She frequently makes use of both familiar forms and experimental techniques, only to comment on and ironize them within the language of the poem. This volume is marked by wry humor and striking self-awareness when considering writerly craft. Indeed, Armantrout's intelligence and keen insight are equally present in the work's humor and cultural commentary. (Nov.)