cover image The Porcupine's Kisses

The Porcupine's Kisses

Stephen Dobyns. Penguin Books, $18 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-14-200244-5

""This one has sex to prove the world exists, that one gets bitten by the dog."" Such disarming aphorisms, along with paragraph-long meditations on death, sex, fame, and memory, make up the first and by far the better half of The Porcupine's Kisses, a well-constructed if somewhat repetitive volume of poetic prose from Stephen Dobyns, the prolific and accessible poet (Cemetery Nights; Velocities) and novelist (The Church of Dead Girls, etc.). That first half is all poetic, generalized sentences and paragraphs, linked by the speaker's sensibility. The second half, ""Definitions,"" comprises hundreds of wisecracking or deflating definitions (loosely modeled on Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary), each one phrase long, in alphabetical order: ""Erudition: necktie on a soapbox. Esthetic: the rhetoric of bad taste."" With illustrations by Howie Michels.