cover image Like a Sea

Like a Sea

Samuel Amadon, . . Univ. of Iowa, $17 (85pp) ISBN 978-1-58729-860-8

Amadon’s memorable debut displays a rare combination of avant-garde technique with down-to-earth, up-to-the-minute subjects: flat diction, impossibly long or cut-up sentences, and catchy repetitions portray lives, cities, and landscapes full of dejection, failed promise, and half-built hopes, especially in and around Amadon’s native Hartford. “Comfort is what burned exactly where/ you were, then left/ guessing that you would like your rest/ to mean take less,” reads a representative sentence: syntactic difficulty resolves to show how hard, how comfortless, the places in Amadon’s viewfinder remain. Disappointment stalks the urban core, but also the faceless suburbs: “Here’s a street looks/ like other streets & I have no idea what/ fills trees,” he admits, and, elsewhere, after a flood “there will be nothing// but to build a replica of where we were/ when we did not keep worthwhile worthwhile.” Expert technique, small words, and bitter moods bring Amadon’s aims close to those of Graham Foust, or even to Robert Creeley. If the most personal poems seem paradoxically abstract, the poems about places stand out, in their forbidding emotions and in their serious interest in geography, in what gets built—and what gets allowed to decay: “this is what we have/ chosen, to value this/ looks like we have chosen before.” (Mar.)