cover image Voice-Over


Elaine Equi. Coffee House Press, $13.95 (91pp) ISBN 978-1-56689-078-6

Like the New York School poets, Equi finds her art within the contradictions and chance encounters of urban life: ""He was made/ to do nothing/ but lean against/ tall buildings./ A somber/ exclamation point,/ eating an apple--/ turning it slowly/ into ballet,"" she writes in ""Armani Weather."" Elsewhere, Equi can be found enthusing about anything from fennel to a fedora, seemingly aiming for the frisson of low-high cultural collision: ""Shocking Pink! Pagan Pink!/ Milk of Magnesia and Panther Pink."" But unlike New York Schoolers Joe Brainard and Frank O'Hara, Equi is writing in an era that entirely sanctions such poetic effusions. Still, despite a bit too much kitsch, Voice-Over retains the generous, sometimes sophisticated humor that pervaded the poetry of her idols, adapting their unabashed sentimentality (""Doesn't it seem wonderfully optimistic when someone you hardly know signs a note `Love'?"") and even channelling her master's voice in ""Monologue: Frank O'Hara."" Perhaps the most noticable change from earlier books like Surface Tension is a growing preoccupation with growing older (in the voice of Lorine Niedecker: ""Hair almost all gray now?// Eyebrows are the last/ to show age and the eyes never"") and with a pervasive numbness where ""the world is diluted."" If such sentiments sometimes make for less than satisfying reading, they also show the poet struggling with ""this sense of eternity/ however brief--.""(Feb.)