cover image Court of the Dragon

Court of the Dragon

Paolo Javier. Nightboat (UPNE, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-937658-36-6

Javier (The Feeling Is Actual), the Queens Borough Poet Laureate from 2010 to 2014, weaves alternately narrative- and sonically-based lines in this collection of long poems that challenge the constraints of language. Much of the book explores the process of reclaiming language: “name English yours, your yours,” he writes. At their best, poems break open the shapes of modern life through collages of abstract word clusters and conversational questions: “in the morning, do you feel like I do—a complete unknown.” In his syntactical play, Javier mixes modern and archaic words in ways that can make the book feel like a linguistic time machine; these formal shifts risk losing the reader while simultaneously challenging expectations of what words can do. His use of anaphora, however, creates thematic and linguistic anchors that help steady his poems. Javier’s book is at its most pleasurable when he allows his writing to be taken over by repetitions until his lines become hypnotic and trancelike. Although narrative themes are hard to discern, recurring words such as divinity, destiny, and allegory work as signposts for the reader to follow. Javier seeks readers brave enough to lose themselves in a “state of inquiry.” [em](May) [/em]