cover image Body & Glass

Body & Glass

Rodney Koeneke. Wave, $18 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-1-940696-68-3

“I suffer from an illness/ that is eating at my talent,” writes Koeneke (Etruria) in a nonetheless lively fourth collection in which sonic elements hold together the poet’s wide-ranging movement of thought. The poem from which that line comes, “Mazurka,” offers a window into the kind of movement Koeneke’s poems frequently enact: energetic as the Polish dance, with a pattern and control worth trusting even when that structure is not immediately apparent. Koeneke writes that “thinking is the plague of kings,” and much of his book plays with notions of agency. There is a particularly effective destabilizing shift between the third-person mode of some of his poems’ titles and the “I” that then acts out those titles. The opener, “His Armored Team,” acts as a keyhole that expands into an operatic narration in which the speaker proclaims, “Through the ribbed hall I move continually/ with my armored team.” Similarly, the title “First There’s His Heart Destroying the Strega” is quickly reframed into the affecting proclamation, “First there’s my heart/ destroying the Strega.” Throughout, an appealing mix of optimism and fatalism can be found in such lines as “If you had believed it/ for only five minutes/ then you, too, have believed.” Koeneke’s blend of pathos, erudition, and whimsy results in an enjoyable collection that rewards repeated engagement. (Apr.)