Elemenopy

Michael Coffey, Author Sun & Moon $10.95 (102p) ISBN 978-1-55713-240-6
Coffey's first volume, number 22 in Sun & Moon's forward-looking New American Poetry series, uses forms founded by this century's avant-garde (e.g., Gertrude Stein, Jackson Mac Low and the Dadaist sound poets) to show how the very materials of language-names, verbs, sounds-inevitably get caught up in relationships, randomly, as we do. (The title is the alphabetic sequence L-M-N-O-P when spoken.) For Coffey, we are literally thrown together (``Marie's left foot slipped. Jim was there. Just slipped and fell.'') and find meaning through language, often by chance. In fact, the stubbornness of prosody and syntax produces relationships where words themselves fail to signify: ``Vasteny garsled Ombaly, tahk unda febala''-subject has encountered object here, and something has happened. Throughout each of the four stylistically differing sections-particularly in the sensuous, often chilling lyrics focused on the shared orality of sex and speech in ``Loving,'' and in ``Dannemora,'' a 20-page poem using only 21 words, the poet clarifies our urge to form narratives out of sounds in sequence, constructing necessary fictions to make meaning-or the sensation of meaning. As the poet notes in a different context, ``Never a wall was built/ That won't come down/ So why go on about it?'' Although a certain alienation is central to these tightly compressed poems, their energy is also invigorating: if the possibilities for forms and kinds of relationships in language are endless, then so are our own. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1996
Release date: 01/01/1996
Genre: Fiction
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