The Glass Age

Cole Swensen, Author . Alice James $14.95 (71p) ISBN 978-1-882295-60-9

Swensen's recent thematic book-length sequences (on Christian art, archaic inventions and the human hand) combine scholarly meticulousness with a postmodern flair for dislocation, cementing Swensen's reputation as an important experimental writer. Her new collection explores the figurative possibilities of glass: as windows, subjects of paintings, and photographic and cinematic lenses. Three sections of mixed prose and verse poems trace the life and work of modernist painter Pierre Bonnard, whose "work implicitly asks what it is to see, and what it is to look through," interwoven with explorations of other artists and media. Swensen (Goest ) makes the case that "a window acts as an inverse prism, gathering the intense pigments of the fractured world back into a clarity of unrestricted light"; by extension, she makes this point about language itself. The same and the opposite could be said of her poems. At times, there is too much history and not enough poetry to convince a reader that "A life-sized window is the size of a life." At her best, however, Swensen draws relationships between disparate elements across time, space and discipline with a magician's touch. Her work continues to meditate on the act, and art, of seeing and saying. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/18/2006
Release date: 01/01/2007
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!