cover image Disclamor


George Calvin Waldrep, . . BOA, $16 (99pp) ISBN 978-1-929918-97-3

The intelligent, quotable sophomore effort from Waldrep (Goldbeater's Skin ) finds a neat balance between clear declarations and head-spinning fragments, and a neat balance, too, between compact page-long lyric efforts, on the one hand, and the series of documentary poems on which the collection turns, which describes the walled gun emplacements (“batteries”) on the Marin headlands in California, once important naval sites, now part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which the poet explored in 2003. Each battery gives its title to a poem (“Battery Mendell,” “Battery Bravo”); each poem integrates what Waldrep saw there (including tourists, concrete and graffiti) with the paradoxes of American empire, the ways in which we are “the new Athens, the new Rome.” Waldrep shows a historian's care for evidence in these short, grave poems that try so hard to take long views. Other works range from pellucid prayer to word salad, with attractive stops in between for mysterious wisdom (“Everything in the world is a knife,/ everything in the world cuts a little from you”) and for bizarre comedy (”Shirts! Though I have not yet worn you/ I appreciate your valor and discretion/ in this difficult moment”). Waldrep has a fine ear and an unresting mind: the combination makes this volume resonate. (Sept.)