cover image What It Is Like: 
New and Selected Poems

What It Is Like: New and Selected Poems

Charles North. Hanging Loose/Turtle Point (Consortium, dist.), $20 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-933527-48-2

Spanning 37 years of this New York School magpie’s chatty and avant-garde work, this retrospective collection showcases the darting imagination and playfulness that have become the hallmarks of his poetry. Prose poems like “The Philosophy of New Jersey” and “Note on Fog” shine with clarity in North’s most iconic book, 2001’s The Nearness of the Way You Look Tonight, where his longer poems reveal the intricate unfolding of his mind in real time: “I’m thinking of a noun,/ any noun. I picture it/ as hard rubber, darkly resinous/ the same family, roughly speaking, as Being-in-Itself.” Among the new poems, North makes some of his funniest, strangest, and most poignant statements when defending his art—”Erections are hard,” he writes in the sweet and clever “Poem Beginning with an Early Poem,” “Poetry is difficult.” Still, North’s fixation on playing the lithe and spritely prankster can render certain of his poems flippant when they don’t deepen beyond the language on their surfaces. “Suppose the impossible,” he begins in “Nocturnes,” “that the peeing were the romantic part, and the screwing made everybody leave the room.” North stakes his claim as a poet for whom language is the romantic part. (Jan.)