A Point is That Which Has No Part

Liz Waldner, Author University of Iowa Press $16 (88p) ISBN 978-0-87745-702-2
From brief sarcastic couplets to dense, lush blocks of prose, Waldner's debut mixes sassiness, smarts and lyricism, intellectual querulousness with personal bitterness, vigor and exasperation. The prose poems here take up about half the volume, and demand to be read slowly; nearly every sentence pivots on some pun, accidental resemblance or double entendre. Brand names, ""credit cards,"" WordPerfect error boxes (""Insufficient File Handles"") collide with piles of quotes from canonical writers: Aquinas, Aeneas, Wallace Stevens, ""that unearthly Aqua Velva color,"" As the World Turns. Sometimes the prose poems degenerate into echolalia: ""The river Lysander. Today's a meander. Terrible weather for the day-after: dank, grey, danker, fear you'll go away."" But elsewhere they are genuinely alert to common falsehoods and hidden truths: ""it's true I am in love with your friend and not you? He got his body in first./ Some juice (I quote what I wrote at 16) is glue."" Most of Waldner's lineated poems come out far sparer, suggesting the learned confidence of Heather McHugh. Each of the book's six parts comes with a title (""Point,"" ""Circle"") and epigraph from geometry and natural philosophy. But Waldner's metalinguistic obsessions, tics and jazzy contemporaneity do not prevent her from seeing a real world with people in it, making this debut worth seeking out. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
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