cover image Who Said

Who Said

Jennifer Michael Hecht. Copper Canyon (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (88p)

If there is a fourth wall in reading, Hecht has broken it: “Good people of Yeshiva University/ and the Jewish Center Museum// You ask me for a poem in conversation/ with an art installation// on the theme of Genesis” she writes in a few lines from the concluding long poem of her third book, in which Blake, Frost, Keats, and Poe are just a few of the poets Hecht riffs on throughout, turning inside out their poetics and rhetoric. ”Half in love with easeful Lenny Bruce/ is still alive. From the depth of some/ divine despair, it is 1965. It is 1975./ You were still Prince Hal and I was still.” Split into nine short sections, where the often formal poems refer to each other, this book embodies, in turn, defiance and curiosity: “My people were existential thugs./ At circus, monkeys in derbies rode us./ Muttering, Life, in a full-bodied shrug,/ at circus we swept up the sawdust.” As in “A Marriage of Love and Independence,” which mashes the Declaration of Independence with Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 29,” Hecht marries precision with experiment. As she says in this ventriloquizing collection, “Precision is one answer to anything.” (Oct.)