Last year saw the publication of Word of Mouth, an anthology of gay male poets edited by Liu, perhaps most notable for its inclusion of experimentalists too often left out of "mainstream" queer collections. His interest in a less traditional approach to form is reflected in his own fourth book, which finds him trying out new means by which to explore his now familiar subjects: death, religion, pop culture and, especially, sex. Those who read him for the latter won't be disappointed—his rapport with Eros is as dark ("Just as my kiss/ once sealed the tomb of his empty mouth"), dirty ("in a piss-stained booth while a stranger/ hammers me with his hips") and bleak—"Seldom glory. Mostly hole."—as ever. But this time his methods seem more random, more disjointed. Sentence fragments pile up like the cultural detritus he incorporates (from the Energizer bunny to "a nail from the True Cross")—or, as he puts it, "All that miniscule/ ephemera we called the war.". His work more closely resembles that of contemporaries Reginald Shepherd and Christopher Davis, with titles like "Middle-Class Realia as Iconographic Vanitas" suggesting a penchant for the baroque. Liu's uncompromising voice may be an acquired taste, but this collection, with its relentless "verbal frottage suffused/ with hostile glamour," confirms it's as strong as ever. (June)
Forecast:: Liu's recent move from Copper Canyon (publisher of his last two collections,
Burnt Offerings and
Say Goodnight) to the smaller, lower budget Talisman House could mean lower sales. But Liu's poems appear regularly in myriad journals, and his solid readership among poetry and gay literature fans will seek this one out.