The Face in the Water

Nancy Vieira Couto, Author University of Pittsburgh Press $0 (51p) ISBN 978-0-8229-3652-7
In this uneven collection, selected by Maxine Kumin as the 1989 winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize for a first book of poetry, the poet's central concerns revolve around the theme of exploration--real and imagined journeys that chart new geographical, emotional and psychological territories--and the sense of alienation that comes with the status of ``foreigner.'' Couto's ``explorers'' range from the Mexican immigrants in ``Wetbacks'' who ``cross over--to live / the way we live, no better than cucharachas darting from the drain'' to Christopher Columbus in ``Finding America'': in a revisionist version the discoverer of America is recast as a woman, a ``middle-aged offspring of another / hemisphere, who measured the wrong star / and found a world.'' Unfortunately, the poet's promising thematic ambitions go unfulfilled. The book is riddled with awkward and imprecise metaphors (``You go to the parade / and see Grant Avenue swelling like a can of contaminated soup''), flimsy premises and an overemphasis on technical virtuosity at the expense of content--her use of form is too often stilted and out of sync with her subject matter. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
Paperback - 51 pages - 978-0-8229-5440-8
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