cover image Ultramarine


Wayne Koestenbaum. Nightboat, $19.95 trade paper (496p) ISBN 978-1-64362-115-9

The 22nd book from artist and writer Koestenbaum (Blue Stranger with Mosaic Background) distills four years of Koestenbaum's trance notebooks into a puzzling series of vignettes full of idiosyncratic details and questions, and references to painting. "#1 [my prostate a shopping mall]" wonders, "why did I equate words/ and genital sensation?// I remain uncertain about the function/ of suppositories// made a spontaneous/ mark with a leftover tube/ of auratic ultramarine,/ finger-smeared it/ to create abrupt/ punctuating lines—." In "#14 [Homer the entrepreneur of mayonnaise]," Koestenbaum remarks, "tranquilized bachelors in paradise grotto/ query my father's candy// describe spanking in detail/ as new hobby." There is a linguistic playfulness here that will appeal to some readers, as well as an insistence on modernity and the high-low duality of daily experience. However, meaning is often lost in these allusive and illusive fragments: "I devote/ elegiac Rachmaninof ballad/ to Joyce Carol Oates's Blonde,/ appropriate subject for a late/ Romantic threnody." Koestenbaum takes the reader on a strange journey, though those looking for cohesion or meaning won't find it here, and may even find the project impenetrable. (Feb.)