cover image Startle Response

Startle Response

Heather Fuller, . . O Books, $12 (66pp) ISBN 978-1-882022-55-7

The playful aggression and political intensities in Fuller's third volume make it this poet's most entertaining and most disturbing work to date. Fuller (Perhaps This Is a Rescue Fantasy ) divides her slim, fast-moving collection into three discrete verse sequences that set several globes spinning on slightly different poetic axes. The first compiles angry, pointed, witty critiques of corporate dominance, governmental surveillance, urban decay, spectacular distraction and war-on-terror paranoia: "Don't narc/ out your neighbors don't/ die like a fink don't blink." More cryptic and more personal, the second sequence (entitled "My North Carolina") uses harsh sounds and unmoored phrases to explore the poet's ancestry and her vocation, diagnosing "Fading Child Syndrome," denouncing "the myth of mad/ genius economy where the prize is blankness," even warning of "hell taking hold talking here." The closing sequence models its poems on veterinary hospital animal-care forms and procedures for reporting emergencies: each page gives "triage location," "assessment" and information about a wounded animal, some of it literal ("intact male DSH silver tabby"), some of it bizarrely metaphorical ("a kitten is a wind-up watch"). As the descriptions fade in and out of human resemblances and metaphors, a world emerges, hurt and resilient. (Sept.)