cover image Bending the Mind Around the Dream's Blown Fuse

Bending the Mind Around the Dream's Blown Fuse

Timothy Liu, . . Talisman, $13.95 (90pp) ISBN 978-1-58498-065-0

Known since the 1990s for his harsh blend of gay eroticism and visionary fervor, Liu (Of Thee I Sing ) continues to pursue his high ambitions, from Whitmanesque odes to American jeremiads. This seventh book begins in a scarred and threatening America: “two boys hustling// in Union Square” are “Clubbed to death/ by a sack of rocks”; the southwestern desert shows only “Topographies of tumbleweed snagged on rusted barbs.” Yet it soon veers into apparently autobiographical material, its language quieter and more reportorial, its landscapes much friendlier and mostly European—Athens, Rhodes, Edinburgh, Paris. (Most of the middle of the book describes an apparently fruitless search for a lover who disappeared in Greece.) Liu's philosophical dealings with his own intensely chronicled frustration, and his tense stanzas, recall Frank Bidart, but his vibrant scenes might just as well please admirers of Philip Levine. These lyrics chase and capture insatiable desire, adrift in a sad and hostile world, with “the heart's purloined/ hermeneutics locked inside a box.” A poem called simply “Bittersweet” begins: “Nothing made you disappear// faster than when I asked/ just what was going on// between us.” (Jan.)