cover image In Captivity

In Captivity

Camille Suzanne Guthrie, . . Subpress, $14 (64pp) ISBN 978-1-930068-32-2

If Guthrie's The Master Thief (2000) was a fable of fraught girlhood, this book's peculiar, post-adolescent parable of adulthood shows how sylvan ambition and unquenchable desire get shunted ("Like pathers in a parking garage") into a gendered, Wasteland-like confab of urban caccophony, loaded relationships and poisonous artistic rivlaries—yet emerge "to show the whole scene in flames." With a mastery of archaic diction that recalls Susan Howe, Guthrie crafts an alternately sweet, harsh, seductive, loving and contemptuous female voice that loosely narrates a fall into love and writing (not necessarily in that order). At her most incandescent, she sounds like Susan Sontag as the love child of Robert Browning and Sylvia Plath: "I never wanted to be your handmaiden/ Pencil driving in a rose-entwined enclosure.// Put away the 15th century encyclopedia now,/ Reality-testing is what we're up to./ How does matter behave under tremendous pressure?/ I almost wrote pleasure." Litanys like "My Boyfriend" ("ribs like a bookcase"; "balls large as a boar-hound's") give way to mean serial poems ("Imposter! Why not move back to Boston[?]"), and to the gorgeous final "In Captivity," where "Girls hide make-believe artifacts under canopies/ Boys tear down posters and unload their pellet guns." It's a tough world, but Guthrie tracks its "rate of radiance" masterfully. (Nov.)