cover image Green and Gray

Green and Gray

Geoffrey G. O'Brien, Author . Univ. of California $19.95 (90p)

O'Brien's much-loved debut, The Guns and Flag's Project , introduced a showy, meditative voice with a slippery edge and a certain standoffishness. O'Brien's follow-up tops that book and shows its author firmly at the controls of his poems, most of which are cast in even columns: life as the scrim of language permits us to live it, as "an experience of experience." Words themselves are always positioned in the foreground of these poems—by limiting the vocabulary, repeating words or phrases or by drawing attention to the ways they don't add up—and O'Brien finds in them the measure of our personal and political lives. Whether in a poem composed using words and phrases from the Patriot Act ("there are such warehouses/ the future may be detained among"), a sestina with dauntingly common repeating end words ("where, then, when, there, what, that"), or in flat-out theory ("The world occurs as time enforces it"), O'Brien shows himself to be capable of portraying the muddled traffic of life in the Internet age. (Apr.)