Levee

Paul Otremba. Four Way, $15.95 (128p) ISBN 978-1-945588-41-9
Otremba (Pax Americana), who died last month, grippingly explores physical and metaphorical violence within familiar literary forms. “If you introduce dialogue/in the first act,” he warns, “they still demand/ a little death before it’s over.” Like much of the book, these lines appear in neatly structured stanzas (couplets, tercets, quatrains, and lyric strophes dominate here), a stylistic choice that amplifies the work’s disruptive qualities. Though creating the semblance of order, Otremba’s writing dexterously reveals the artifice inherent in the structures imposed upon language. “If the room’s constrained,/ the marshal’s in cahoots with the camera,” he writes, suggesting that grammar, syntax, and narrative, like the manipulation of a camera’s angle, offer an arbitrary lens through which to view experience. By the end, some readers may feel that the provocative tension between order and chaos suggested by the title is not fully exploited. “It’s a luxury to be this calm,” says the speaker of “Old Long Silence,” a proclamation that appears early in the collection and characterizes the voice of many of the poems. Yet Otremba’s command of form and structure, and the scope of his exploration, make this a worthwhile outing. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 07/11/2019
Release date: 09/01/2019
Genre: Poetry
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