cover image Confidence


Seth Landman. Brooklyn Arts (SPD, dist.), $18 trade paper (136p) ISBN 978-1-936767-39-7

Landman (Sign You Were Mistaken) succeeds in taking a few big, beautiful risks in these three heavily linked long poems. The poems’ surface difficulty—no punctuation, esoteric line breaks—may scare some readers, but the work reveals Landman as a master of conversational poetics and a deep thinker about words. The first poem, “Telling You I Love You,” is a swirl of language that uses its kinetic nature to mirror the way a loved one can be both taken for granted and be the center of the universe. Flitting between happy and sad, “what are you missing/who do you love” becomes the theme, with the speaker left standing alone in the woods, unsure of what is next. “Confidence” picks up that thread and runs full force with its melancholy, as an unidentified loved one is dying in hospice. The depressive tone that takes hold feels like a mix of A.R. Ammons’s Garbage and Anne Carson’s Plainwater: “this/ is a feeling/ I’m giving it/ time and place.” The final poem, “Breakwater,” turns to focus on the presence of love and its hope. When in the throes of love, Landman writes, “I can’t /understand why/ I would want/ to wake up.” The depth of feeling can overwhelm, but Landman leaves no doubt that it’s completely sincere. (Aug.)