Marvin Bell, Author . Copper Canyon $20 (67p) ISBN 978-1-55659-206-5

A resurgent lyric voice marks Bell's first all-new collection since the "Dead Man" persona poems of the 1990s, pitched toward action and reaction: a twisted rope, when released, will "spring back / toward its most direct shape," just as "the molecules of a husband align themselves / with those of a wife." Bell's speaker looks at the world as if through a microscope: ("Those leaves are mainly water, the air between you and them mainly water"), and the truths he extracts and extrapolates are cynical: "You yourself are a kind of flooded hollow hull." The prosaic lists that dominated the Dead Man's doings persist in "Journal of the Posthumous Present," a laborious meditation that ponders Seurat, Salome and the film Dancer in the Dark until this dead man finally "blows a kiss through the wispy curtain of closure." Stream-of-consciousness by design, the poems move through settings from Beirut to Amsterdam to the Homeric Mediterranean. When successful, they stitch one thread of imagery through digressive meditation, as in "Resolving the Cold" and "Another Primer about the Flag," while a sweaty pair of shoes forms the backbone of "Ashes Poetica," a poem about futility. Bell's empathy for inanimate objects can be disingenuous, but it is also often felicitous and funny, as when "The boats were at their moorings,/ applauding the good wood." At such moments, Bell's speaker pulls himself up into a high, dim realm of intelligence, hard to paraphrase and willfully poetical. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/22/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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