cover image The Rova Improvisations

The Rova Improvisations

Clark Collidge / Author, Clark Coolidge / Author Sun and Moon

This is an enormously complex project. In the first half of the book, Coolidge (The Maintains) has written poems inspired by the compositions of a Bay-Area, avant-garde sax quartet called Rova; in the second half, he reads through his own compositions of the first half and does riffs off of those. This is jazz improvisation brought to poetry as technique rather than as sound-and, alas, a failure, owing to just how studied the supposed improv is. As readers become aware of the volume's bilateral symmetry, it is impossible not to notice the figure of the poet looming in the foreground, an experience disconcerting to Coolidge fans accustomed to his characteristic distance. And his engagement with the Rova music (he has sat in with them, on occasion) is wholly private and seems quite an indulgence in published form. Still, as always, Coolidge's text sponsors more fresh language on one page than most others manage in a volume. (Sept.)