cover image A TABLE OF CONTENT


Dorothea Tanning, . . Graywolf, $14 (83pp) ISBN 978-1-55597-402-2

This internationally known painter and sculptor's debut collection is a curious mix of numerous styles: confessionalism, Whitmanic declaration, a self-containment worthy of Merrill. The stance that speaks loudest is a straightforward, unmannered approach to the deconstruction of icons, references and symbols: "He told us, with the years, you will come / to love the world ./ And we sat there with our souls in our laps,/ and comforted them." Elsewhere, Tanning's methods draw on Surrealism; that is no surprise, given her lifelong dialogue with the movement in her painting and her marriage to Max Ernst. (A poem dedicated to M.E. refers to Ernst's La Femme 100 Tetes. ) Her speaker's tone throughout is tinged with regret—at loss of opportunity, vitality, love—making the poems quieter at heart than some of their jagged surfaces first suggest. At moments of greatest directness, Tanning can dip into cliché, as when noting that "In French death is feminine," or that Merce Cunningham's dancers make "5 barely believable/ bodies/ become/ 1 thought." But more often than not in this marvelous miscellany, she pulls it off; "Time Flew" describes the whole arc of affection in a moment of eye contact: "What they saw/ would have no end, both knew." (June)