cover image Threshold Songs

Threshold Songs

Peter Gizzi. Wesleyan, $22.95 (104p) ISBN 978-0-81957-174-8

Gizzi can be as sly and digressive as the New York School poets, as challenging and idiomatic as the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, but he differentiates himself from both tribes by pushing his poems toward a place where the making of meaning is still his foremost desire, especially in this, his fifth, and most personal book. “The grass inside/ the song stains me,” he writes in “Basement Song,” “The mother stains me.” Gizzi’s poems are filled with the same intricacies that enamor us of certain songs: the rhythmic flourishes startle but never betray his cadence, the timbres of his words share as much dissonance as they do harmony, and over everything is the lyric, the voice, speaking to us with urgency and occasion. These elements combine most powerfully in “History Is Made at Night,” a 10-part sequence in which Gizzi tackles the great subjects while lying awake in bed. “I never see through you,” he writes, “but through you the joy/ of all that is there anyway,/ singing.” Like any tune, when Gizzi’s lyrics, rhythm, and pitch all operate on different wavelengths, the engine falls apart. But a great lyric will always justify a discordant backing band, and Gizzi knows this, singing over his own wall of sound, “I love you/ like dirt.” (Sept.)