cover image Beautiful Shirt

Beautiful Shirt

Donald Revell. Wesleyan University Press, $26 (67pp) ISBN 978-0-8195-2216-0

In Revell's (Erasures) fifth collection, a reader follows the fragmented terrain of poems like ``a vein of broken petals'' on an otherworldly journey. From ``Privacy'' to ``Cloistered,'' the poems speak an almost hermetic language of concepts, wild images and metaphors aligned as pieces of a smashed mirror. Revell wrote the book while traveling, ``in order to make poems entirely dependent upon immediate physical and verbal circumstances''-which, in practice, resulted in poems virtually devoid of emotion or sensual impact, a poetry of ideas. At times, their strangeness resolves into an exquisite invitation. In other cases, no resolution occurs, and language remains dense nearly to the point of illegibility, yet maintains an energetic, Joycean beauty. Clearly Ashbery has led Revell into a land of abruptly shifting diction, where music ``refuses melody,/ postpones the finale in each note until/ the whole thing collapses under/ the burden of its possibilities.'' And Revell proves himself an able student of Ashberyan fluency, though his attempts at humor seem morbid and less witty. This is a poetry of often blunt, gnomic statements, but also an abundance of thought and dazzling wordplay: labor over it, and you'll be rewarded. (Jan.)