cover image Chinoiserie


Karen Rigby. Ahsahta (SPD, dist.), $17.50 trade paper (72p) ISBN 978-1-934103-25-8

Ekphrasis serves as form and method in Rigby’s debut, in which poems on masterpieces—from an illuminare of Adam and Eve by the Boucicaut Master and workshop to an oil by O’Keeffe, from Sunset Boulevard to a Da Vinci design for a flying machine—embellish what we already know: in “Design for a Flying Machine,” Rigby writes, “The sketch contains a faceless man, an X/ across his chest, the parachute/ dreamed centuries too soon.” Other poems employ careful description—sometimes rococo, sometimes abstract—to guide readers through dramatized self-portraits (“everything I know about beauty I learned/ from the body’s ruin”) and landscapes of mixed images (“DETOUR. Milk crate./ The molten globe// on a glassblower’s rod” conjures, for instance, Pittsburgh). Written under the sign of contemporary masters like Jorie Graham, Rigby’s poems—some clusters of textured language, others long-lined assays splaying the page—seem to delight in the markings left by their own making. Where oblique, we appreciate the mysterious attempts. Where approximate, we can glimpse the meanings we bring. (Feb.)