cover image SOFT SIFT


Mark Ford, . . Harcourt, $23 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-15-100949-7

Though U.K. sophisticates have been Ford fans for a decade, the London-based poet's first U.S. notice came with his recent critical volume Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams. He makes his American poetic debut in this slippery and smart volume of short poems. The people in Ford's poems move along misty, up-to-date paths through their cityscapes, musing on problems as recherché as the nature of power, or as ordinary as the end of a romance: "Brinkmanship" imagines "moving/ Through time and air as if each mirrored the other," while the ironically titled "Twenty Twenty Vision" explains "my doom is never to forget/ My lost bearings." Some shorter poems mock the academy or explore the "ruthless, intricate currents" of travel and thought. Other poems offer warmer, less ironized pleasures: "Pinch me, pinch me, we hear ourselves murmur// over and over," a poem in long couplets concludes, "as fierce measures are fervently called for/ and taken, first inscribed in blood, then chiseled in stone." Admirers of John Ashbery—and especially of Ashbery's celebrated 1970s poems—will recognize the twists and turns, the avoidance of explicit story lines, and the coy self-presentations that mark much of Ford's new work. (Apr.)