cover image Etruria


Rodney Koeneke. Wave (Consortium, dist.), $18 trade paper (72p) ISBN 978-1-933517-82-7

Koeneke (Musee Mechanique) explores an eclectic range of subjects in his third collection, with Dante, puppies, and Slavoj Zizek making appearances as he undertakes exciting lyrical meditations with unexpected turns. The opening poem, "Toward a Theory of Translation," begins with a consideration of literary giants%E2%80%94"Everyone knows that O'Hara is great, but who loses much sleep over Pasternak?"%E2%80%94and closes with a poignant punctuation of the poem's academic reflections, "saying that if love is a state for which no language is ever adequate,/ yet we keep falling in love and writing about it anyway, then each of us,/ in our private feelings, resembles a poem waiting for its translator." Koeneke easily shifts from the conversational ("Look what I brought you/ these ampules of feeling") to the reflective ("The thinking of the loving/ is the loving/ the ankle sings most sweetly/ in its sock"), while his poem "La Chevy Nova" beautifully contemplates a scene in Dante's Purgatorio in its movement from the scholarly to the personal: "But I gaze at you and I burn/ with a new vernacular; I see you and I see vermillion." The naturalness of Koeneke's essayistic explorations and his adept weaving of disparate sources make this an engaging, thoughtful, and consistently surprising collection. (Apr.)