cover image Jim and Dave Defeat the Masked Man

Jim and Dave Defeat the Masked Man

David Lehman, James Cummins. Soft Skull Press, $14.95 (143pp) ISBN 978-1-933368-04-7

This whimsical collection of 39 sestinas from Lehman, who edits the Best American Poetry series, and Cincinnati poet-critic Cummins (The Whole Truth) is an entertaining parlor game and a substantial book of poems. Sestinas consist of six stanzas of six lines each; each of the stanzas uses the same set of six words to end its lines; the end-words recur in different positions from stanza to stanza. (A seventh, three-line stanza uses all six words again.) Whether envisioning themselves as CIA agents, righting wrongs and exposing scandals in poetry, or opening their own ""sestina bar,"" the two poets do it with flair and a sense of the absurd: horse racing, Henry James, sex, high school graduations, the board game Monopoly and a famous poet's ""Big Hair"" figure in; end words include ""surrealism,"" ""Sly Stallone,"" ""Osama Bin Laden,"" ""Secretariat,"" ""Anne Sexton,"" ""tango"" and ""sestina."" Archie Rand's cartoonish illustrations (one per poem) add to the light mood.