cover image Blue Stranger with Mosaic Background

Blue Stranger with Mosaic Background

Wayne Koestenbaum. Turtle Point (Consortium, dist.), $10.50 (126p) ISBN 978-1-933527-60-4

In his sixth book of poems, Koestenbaum takes a hilarious and dirty look at the underbelly of culture in America in poems that are raunchy, mean, darkly funny, and a joy to read. Flirting, and often going to bed, with nonsense, these poems, many set in sectioned-off couplets or tercets, poke fun at everything Koestenbaum’s capacious intelligence seizes, drawing together elements as disparate as dairy and philosophy (“The heavy cream went bad. I read aloud/ a Lacan line about the stupid signifier”) and Barbra Streisand and Stravinsky (in a memorable suite of imaginary album titles: “Streisand Sings Stravinsky/ Streisand Sings Schoenberg/ Streisand Sings Chomsky”). He pushes the limits on all sorts of subjects, including Eros between men (“The Ass Festival” is simply too dirty to quote) and high fashion (“Guilt: I bought Dior/ Homme silver/ sneakers”). But these are not just dirty jokes for dirty jokes’ sake: Koestenbaum achieves something powerful in this book, in which anger, sarcasm, self-deprecation, and desire are all swept into a kind of emotional whirlwind that feels deeply authentic and nakedly human. These poems are beautiful in spite of themselves. (Apr.)