The Next Country

Idra Novey, Author . Alice James $14.95 (61p) ISBN 978-1-882295-71-5

The first half of this vivid debut reacts to the poet’s travels, mostly in Central and South America. One poem watches “Ziggy Marley at the Estadio Nacional”; another envisions a nation in which “When asked about hunger,/ the children replied with hunger.” Novey strikes a fine balance between hints and allusions to political history and generalized or allegorical locales, not proper nouns or place names but “leaping wells to the underworld”; she mixes prose poems with solidly crafted free verse, poems about particular sites with poems about travel itself, “from the Home Depot in Lima/ or in search of the Dalai Lama.” Novey (who is also a translator) fills the second half of her volume with equally well-made poems about American places, which follow the history of a family, perhaps her own. “They met at Hardy’s in a highway town,” one poem opens; another looks harder at the American isolation of the plains, where “After the last house,/ the land extends like a hand before the mouth of a horse.” Carolyn Forche selected Novey for a prestigious chapbook prize, and Novey’s poems will certainly inspire comparisons to Forche’s. But the wide range of this book attest that Novey has many unique gifts of her own. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 11/17/2008
Release date: 11/01/2008
Genre: Fiction
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