Then, Suddenly-

Lynn Emanuel, Author University of Pittsburgh Press $25 (55p) ISBN 978-0-8229-4108-8
A determined, smart-alecky poet eyes her reader constantly through this cranky, quirky third collection, sizing us up to the point of exhaustion: ""I'm tired of the dark forest of this book/ and the little trail of bread crumbs I have/ to leave so readers.../ can...follow along."" Emanuel often has the tone of a teacher who just knows the class won't get her point. She nevertheless varies her lines and her forms adroitly (if conventionally); piles on gorgeous images; celebrates American masters (""Walt, I Salute You!"") and mentors--only to mockingly renounce narrative, content, emotion (especially emotion) in order to get at a constantly restated goal: ""Then, suddenly.../ I am gone, and all that's left is a voice.../ ...gobbling up the landscape,/ an airborne cloud of selfhood giving a poetry reading/ in which, Reader, I have made our paths cross!"" To say that such pronouncements sound stiff and a tad ridiculous at this late theoretical date is hardly necessary, especially when Emanuel fails to back them up with splinterings of the self-in-language that ring true. But fans of Deborah Garrison and other chroniclers of the collisons between the bourgeois writing life (""Outwardly, my life is one of irreproachable tedium"") and desires for walks on the wild side will appreciate crackly poems like ""Dressing the Parts"": ""So, here we are,/ I am a kind of diction// I can walk around in/ clothed in six-inch heels// of arrogation and scurrility./ And what are you// wearing? Is it those boxer/ things again? I hope it is// those boxer things/ and nothing else."" (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/04/1999
Release date: 10/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
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