Slant Six

Erin Belieu. Copper Canyon (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (68p) ISBN 978-1-55659-471-7
Belieu oscillates between dark humor, self-consciousness, and pointed satire in a fourth collection that’s equal-opportunity in its critique. In the world of these poems, no one is innocent; everyone is confined to the complexity, absurdity, and, above all, fallibility of their human condition. “O America,” Belieu writes, “we don’t mean to disappoint,/ but every lover comes/ with fulsome jiggle,/ some pudding/ packed in the U-Haul,/ a mole we want to believe/ could be viewed as a beauty mark.” It is often smaller, quotidian gestures and occurrences that serve to ignite the poems’ fire. In “Time Machine,” an act of road rage on the part of a Volvo driver with a “Commit Random Acts of Kindness” bumper sticker leads to a brilliant meditation on the nature of memory and identity: “Time unspools, and here I sit/ road-rashed, knotted in the service/ ditch of my humiliation.” Anchoring the work is a conversational, lyrical speaker willing to implicate herself as part of the political and social constructs she criticizes, as when she depicts a Southern American culture still reeling from its history of social injustice, and even the Civil War: “Don’t tell us/ history. Nobody hearts a cemetery/ like we do.” It’s a fantastic collection; Belieu desires not to dress issues up but confront them. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/20/2014
Release date: 11/01/2014
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