As for Dream

Saskia Hamilton, Author Graywolf Press $12.95 (63p) ISBN 978-1-55597-316-2
Finding the space where the terse confessional poem interacts with the open-ended fragment, Hamilton's debut sews together the separate worlds of id and epistemology, of sexual disillusion and fetishized cognitive oddity. ""Legible Mystery"" reads in its ironic entirety: ""For no one understands the framework but you,/ and they really want you to give a little."" Hamilton notates good and bad days, regretful moods, self-questionings and realizations whose very lack of consequence seems to shock her: ""There is a bright eye in me dulled by the activity of my dreaming eye,"" but which is nevertheless foreboding: ""Sleep while you can for tomorrow it will be morning."" Hamilton tells not stories, but parts of stories--sometimes tantalizing, sometimes just insufficient--about sex and self-discovery, European travel and urban bohemia, mourning one's parents and making up characters. Though Hamilton, who is currently teaching at Kenyon College, is editing the letters of Robert Lowell, the poems owe almost nothing to him: visible precedents are instead Anne Carson (""We are all waiting to hear/ what the hook yanked-up from down there"") and, in the prose poems, Robert Hass (who is thanked). Hamilton's speaker often deploys numb languor as a kind of defense, particularly against death: ""I have practiced dreaming. It works sometimes"" or ""It is hard to imagine anyone else touching me."" It often works too well, keeping dangerous emotions at arm's length or degrading into a series of faux-na ve pronouncements that have plenty of atmosphere but don't hold up to repeated readings. In a blurb, Jorie Graham finds in the book an ""oriental glimpsing of the ineffable""; others will just find it inevitable. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
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