cover image I %E2%99%A5 Your Fate

I %E2%99%A5 Your Fate

Anthony McCann. Wave (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-933517-51-3

Is McCann a skillful interrogator of our times, by turns infuriating and sparkling, parodying each of the older genres (the visionary quest poem, the ode on a scene, the love lyric) in which he appears to work? Is he a left-wing cultural critic trying to squeeze the air out of an exhausted form of speech? Or is he primarily a comedian, a glib provocateur? The three parts of his third collection make such questions inevitable, but keep the answers hard to find: when McCann (Moongarden) writes, in "Of the Mockingbird," "The sky is something else: a mirror/ that advances/ The television on, everyone advancing" the worldview suggests such once-edgy postmodern-ish writers as the young Mark Levine. Elsewhere McCann seems to seek a Swiftian disgust: "Here on Mammal Island/ the slugs/ bleed human milk/ and the world/ is a house symbol." But the works at the center of his volume%E2%80%94fourteen pages, all in loosely dactylic tetrameter quatrains%E2%80%94go beyond critique into self-parody, miming an exhausted exhilaration. "Can organized body hair still be alive?/ In what forms can the ants be said to believe?" one page begins; another concludes, "I drag myself toward you using only my face/ To see each little flower, forever, at once." It is hard to know how to take such lines, and that might be the point: McCann tries hard to keep his readers disturbed, unsettled; for some, such constant disturbance might be just enough. (Apr.)