Kate Colby, Litmus (SPD, dist.), $15 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-933959-11-5
Beauport was a seaside mansion (now called the Sleeper-McCann House) in Gloucester, Mass., created about a century ago by the whimsical, sometimes outrageous designer Henry Davis Sleeper. This book-length poem in fractured verse and resonant, brief blocks of prose shares Sleeper's title and some of his goals, making seaside New England and its history (sailing ships, merchant princes; injustice, philanthropy) look unpredictable from room to room. But Colby (Fruitlands) sets out in this fourth volume to investigate and disassemble the merely historical imagination: she will "send an aerogram to eternity par avion/ my demented pen pal/ my sotted nineteenth century," mixing scenes from Sleeper's life and times with her own early life in New England and New York. Visual impressions, sense memories and real names (Frederick Law Olmsted, Baron von Haussmann) collide as Colby meditates on the supposed, perhaps illusory, autonomy of a house, of an art, of a life. "Making history in pewter pitchers, hand-forged implements," "shutting off the spigot and climbing into it," Colby opposes the big events of wars and depressions with small, odd shelters of her own design, shelters at once needed and almost useless: Colby's Sleeper concludes that "images have invented history, dead-on, looked straight into the eye of the lie of it." (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/21/2011
Release date: 12/01/2010
Genre: Fiction
Discover what to read next