The Politics

Benjamin Paloff. Carnegie Mellon Univ., $15.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-88748-535-9
This much-awaited debut from critic, translator, and Slavic-lit scholar Paloff combines an articulate sadness with an almost playful devotion to classical and philosophical texts. "If anything happens to you here," Paloff warns, "no one will help you. No matter what/ happens, refuse to take the stage in the theater they've made of your temple." Such bracing advice—delivered, like most of these poems, in subdued, long-lined free verse—comes at the end of a poem called "Maimonides on the Indestructibility of the Universe"; the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, the Roman thinker and playwright Seneca, the classical historian Xenophon, the Greek poet Archilochus, and other such personages wander through Paloff's poems, providing the seeds from which his own sentences grow. Loss—political, romantic, existential—pervades every object, every figure: "The hardwood paneling in the southern courtroom encodes another way to be dead, someone is hard at work encoding everything that's said, and another is doing his darndest not to judge." Paloff gets plenty of ideas into his lines; sometimes he risks a philosophizing monotony. The best parts find room for sensuous invention, too: "The day is more radiation than matter, the black hole a sign/ for what is not allowed." (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/21/2011
Release date: 00/00/0000
Genre: Fiction
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