TURNERESQUE

Elizabeth Willis, Author . Burning Deck $10 (96p) ISBN 978-1-886224-62-9

Indulging in the quintessentially poetic art of associating things that have never been found together before, Willis (The Human Abstract) here combines the haunting luminosity of English painter J.M.W. Turner with the lucid black-and-white of American film noir, along with the darkly visionary poetry of Rimbaud, Blake and Baudelaire. Thanks to Willis's skill with language, and the deftly undercutting humor that pervades, these potentially awkward juxtapositions make poetry. Alternating between prose and lyric form, between tough-guy language gleaned from B movies and achingly lovely tropes, Willlis often works in miniature, carefully crafting each line to deflate pomposity or sentiment that might otherwise outsize her subjects: "What does it take/ to make a happy ant?// a dropped lozenge/ on the damp step." Intrinsic to her poems is a basic wonderment at the world, but rather than be surprised that it exists, she ponders the common force that holds everything together. While her speaker is not afraid to admit that she "cannot describe salt," she discovers something essential in the intricacies of thought ("She of the elaborate mind, who elevates the evening with a subtle tart") as it proceeds through the vagaries, pleasures and torments of life. An elegy for Matthew Shepard finds, "You've been indexed/ & written in pencil on bedroom walls/ & like Shelley, writ in light," articulating at once Shepard's appropriation, historicity and humanity. (June)

Reviewed on: 06/23/2003
Release date: 01/01/2003
Hardcover - 95 pages - 978-1-886224-63-6
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