cover image Involuntary Lyrics

Involuntary Lyrics

Aaron Shurin. Omnidawn Publishing, $14.95 (108pp) ISBN 978-1-890650-23-0

Were a line of Shurin's poetry a pirate's plank, the condemned could never guess the paces remaining before their inevitable plummet: these are poems whose lines swing out only to curve back, replacing air with another foothold. Yet regardless of how they race or meander, some anchor always governs, be it form's faint dictate-each poem contains 14 lines-or that ""each 'Involuntary Lyric' ends its lines with the same words as a correspondingly numbered Shakespeare sonnet,"" as Shurin reveals in ""A Foot Note."" While Shakespeare may be one of the heavyweights preventing this collection from drifting too far out of the San Francisco Bay, other imperatives also intervene, ""ordering / quotidian life according to compulsions"": desire between men, AIDS, aging, job security and literary influences from Whitman to Proust to Burroughs. Ultimately, the poems contain all unspent desire, for ""Composition / deems none / such interruption permissible,"" favoring attention to the present moment of writing over distracted action. The resultant surplus of kinetic energy explodes in a theatrical flourish of exclamation-""'Just tell them what I have seen!'""-as often as it opts for objectivity and to ""ride / permutations without disdain / to meet another face / of mine."" Indeed, in this confessional intervention into language poetry, readers may note how the many ""vagrant eyes"" shift into the singular, leaving the poet center-stage.