cover image In Defense of Nothing: Selected Poems, 1987–2011

In Defense of Nothing: Selected Poems, 1987–2011

Peter Gizzi. Wesleyan Univ, $26.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8195-7430-5

One of the more prominent voices in contemporary American poetry, Gizzi (Threshold Songs) works in a style that is as innovative as it is singular and unique. These poems, taken from five different collections, are in places comedic and playful, elsewhere elegiac and devastatingly honest, reflecting a careful approach to form and a finely tuned musical ear. Much of the work tends to stack its images, oscillating between the concrete and the ethereal as it gains momentum: “The heart of poetry,” Gizzi writes in “Pierced,” “is fatigue/ what the teachers left unsaid/ a whimpering man inside the child,” but also “a skinny leg inside a blown out shoe/ at the side of the ocean.” Throughout, moments of self-consciousness emerge, interrogating the capability of language in representing experience. In “Revival,” an elegiac call to Gregory Corso, the voice declares: “I was talking about rending, reading, rewriting/ what is seen.../ I want an art that can say what I am feeling.” Gizzi’s poetry is “silly with clarity,” infused with a restless vernacular that can elevate the mundane while making the impossible tangible. (Mar.)