Michael C. Gizzi, Author . The Figures $12.50 (95p) ISBN 978-1-930589-10-0

What Gizzi takes from Dante in this eagerly awaited follow-up to the breakthrough volume No Both (1997) is less the canonical formal precedent indicated by the title than a mandate to visit mayhem on the arrogant lingua franca of our own day: standardized English. For while this book does bear a tripartite structure, and the title sequence does employ tercets (albeit unrhymed and non-metrical), the book's real debt is not to the Commedia but to Dante's tract celebrating the vernacular as a fit medium for composition, De vulgari eloquentia. Gizzi always shows himself a maestro at playing locally generated lexical tensions ("kooky Kwakiutl risotto") against what might be called, after a poem late in the book, "Velocity School" syntactical figures. A sentence from the sixth of 20 stunning prose poems in "Cured of the Going Bebop" gives the essentials: "And Pud Bowell in aqua sox, making muffins to milk the clock, fires up the raingutter shoots for swanging gardens of gin, ties a bow in the deluge dishing pearls in gigglewater leaping fundaments while a gumdrop bird (beak off) flips a coin with Schnabel Askew." In literal dialogue with Clark Coolidge (they did tandem readings last year), Gizzi has been travelling the "nameways" of B-movies, cartoons, jazz and its lore with increasing intensity and skill since Continental Harmony in 1991, tapping the anti-authoritarian energies stored in talky linguistic forms and subaltern genres. But the knack for surrealistic assemblage, the intricate orchestration of sonic patterns, the unerring ear for all that "human convoluters" let escape their "conniption traps," establish this "Misteriosi So-and-So" as a soloist of the first order. (June)

Reviewed on: 06/04/2001
Release date: 01/01/2001
Genre: Poetry
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