Beth Anderson, Author . Burning Deck $10 (78p) ISBN 978-1-886224-69-8

"I would prefer to avoid crescendo in these cacophonous times/ inundated with mess," states the speaker of "The Scale of Largesse," one of the many meticulously built and brilliantly absorbing poems in Anderson's second collection, one that repeatedly declines the grand gesture in favor of microtonal variation and complex formal architecture. Each of the book's five sequences features an expansive line (20 syllables or more) that would collapse into prose in lesser hands; in Anderson's the pleasures of enjambment, caesura and carefully measured rhythmical figures persist along with the intricate scissoring of syntax and sonics more usual in restricted line lengths. Highlights include the nine "Hearsay Sonnets," which plumb the Proustian allure of the place name and capture perfectly the contradictions (the quotidian versus the exotic; the actual versus the imaginary) condensed therein. Also excellent is the 10-poem sequence "A Locked Room," where the subgenre of mystery writing becomes a figure for the murderous side of social determinism. But most impressive is the concluding sequence "Hazard," which is Mallarméan in theme ("dice will roll") and fascinating formally (the internal structure of the 400-line poem and all its strictly patterned subdivisions would require an article to fully explain). Not every reader will find the "scale of largesse" at which an Anderson poem unfolds congenial or comprehensible. For the patient and attentive reader, however, it doesn't get much better than this. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 01/24/2005
Release date: 01/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 78 pages - 978-1-886224-70-4
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