THE BLAZE OF THE POUI

Mark McMorris, Author . Univ. of Georgia $16.95 (88p) ISBN 978-0-8203-2515-6

Intermingling an erudite but folksy persona with a metrics that suggests 17th-century England, McMorris sifts an often lush, deceptively whole Caribbean landscape for the traces of a harsh English colonial past: "What do the fields represent, the harvest?/ ratios, roads, drainage—the plucked flowers of science—/ these words are fuel to tinder, they promise/ extremes of hatred if not boredom." Error, deception, discontinuities of history and wounds to geography inform poems like "Bedtime in New Guinea," a catalogue of sense experience ("the rasp of the mower, the smell of fresh-cut grass / the wasp nests which complicate the summer") intruded upon by an economy that once governed but has now has abandoned this enclave: "Among the rubble of the system is a necklace/ and to talk on that road is to suffer an umbilical tear/ without profit to the community, which depends on/ artifacts to counter the drain of capital to the north." The poems eventually leave the islands, but not the problem of exile. The long "A Poet for the Love of Women" figures the poet as globe-trotting, language-loving Don Juan ("I loved the sin in sinning, the gland in England"), but finally finds him "weep[ing] for the Sibyl, for she is dead, who spoke / the tongue of my mother." Re-creations of colonial-era journals by fictional English capitalists; further serial poems that depart into "language"-esque plays; and an epithalamion that is the title poem of this book—from all of these poems emerges a poetic voice that is at once deeply engaged with an English poetic tradition, but not afraid, through the tactics of postmodernism, to trouble the terms of its extended contract. (Apr. 15)

Reviewed on: 03/31/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
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