cover image Paul Bunyan's Bearskin: Poems

Paul Bunyan's Bearskin: Poems

Patricia Goedicke. Milkweed Editions, $11 (137pp) ISBN 978-0-915943-54-8

Goedicke's ( The Tongues We Speak ) collection of 46 poems addresses problems of contemporary history, such as nuclear proliferation and imperialism, as well as struggles of the individual against anger and loneliness. In general, the voice is overwrought and the poems lack the precise focus that might be achieved by a more dispassionate eye. Sometimes generalizations about global politics guide the speaker to muddled conclusions, as when she compares police brutality in South Korea, Latin America, the Soviet Union and the United States and finds them interchangeable. The narration frequently presents a litany of suffering, but the melodramatic tone tips the scales too quickly and undercuts serious ideas: ``Everyday more suicides / Among the living, more hangovers / Among the dead.'' The overuse of the extended line and its enjambment to the following stanza (``For the corpses pile up everywhere: / in the middle of everyone's kitchen . . . ) causes irony to turn preposterous. Goedicke's poetry reflects the anxiety of the approach of a new century. She acknowledges as much, referring to the poet as an ``exhausted doodler.'' The despair imparted in her poems is exhausting but not emotionally convincing. (Apr.)