All-Night Lingo Tango

( 2 )

Overview

This collection is a love letter to language with poems that are drunk and filled with references to the hyperkinetic world of the twenty-first century. Yet Zeus and Hera tangle with Leda on the interstate; Ava Gardner becomes a Hindu princess; and Shiva, the Destroyer, reigns over all. English is the primary god here, with its huge vocabulary and omnivorous gluttony for new words, yet the mystery of the alphabet is behind everything, a funky puppet masterwho can make a new ...

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All-Night Lingo Tango

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Overview

This collection is a love letter to language with poems that are drunk and filled with references to the hyperkinetic world of the twenty-first century. Yet Zeus and Hera tangle with Leda on the interstate; Ava Gardner becomes a Hindu princess; and Shiva, the Destroyer, reigns over all. English is the primary god here, with its huge vocabulary and omnivorous gluttony for new words, yet the mystery of the alphabet is behind everything, a funky puppet masterwho can make a new world out of nothing.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Chatty and whimsical, literary and (at its best) laugh-out-loud funny, Hamby's fourth outing begins with a tour-de-force: monorhyme. All the long lines in Hamby's two-page "Ode to Anglo Saxon, Film Noir, and the Hundred Thousand Anxieties that Plague Me Like Demons in a Medieval Christian Allegory" (yes, that's the title) rhyme, or at least half-rhyme, with one another: "Who are you? Not the hippie chick/ of your early twenties or the Sears and Roebuck/ Christian drudge your mother became, though Satan still stalks/ you...." Most of the volume pursues the same jittery, entertaining pace, with frequent reference to baby-boom-era popular culture, especially film: "Here's to the movie queens with their nose jobs, snow jobs, blow jobs." Long-lined "Odes," most in monorhyme or in loose couplets, give her extroverted, digressive imagination free play, reminiscent by turns of Albert Goldbarth and Ogden Nash: "I was a vegetarian,/ so I know food hang-ups like a Rastafarian/ knows ganja." Hamby (Babel ) also includes a few dozen 13-line sonnets, more restrained, less forceful, and less personal, but determined to juxtapose the ultra-contemporary and the famously literary: "Nietzsche Explains the Ubermensch to Lois Lane." Hamby's autobiographical asides and festive attitudes may seem, to some, like nothing new: yet, often enough, their sheer verve should entertain. (Feb.)

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Library Journal

Queen of weird juxtapositions, Hamby sets poems up like tent parties where anyone can meet anyone: Ulysses and Freud hang out to discuss the underworld; the Three Stooges show up in Paris. Marvell, Shakespeare, and Donne are everywhere, but in drag: "Xerox my heart, three-headed dog" begins a hate poem to an ex. An ode to a Pindaric ode rhymes Babs with Tabs (the soft drink), there are abecedaries in which each line starts with "a" and ends with "z" and a rhyme scheme where every line ends in the same rhyme. Insomnia is the idée fixe, the poet attempting to oust her demons ("who is the devil anyway, but some ugly/ guy with a goatee and fire coming from his ears") as new ones spontaneously generate and sidle in. Sometimes, between cartoons, she nails a strange and beautiful language, the Hawaiian lingo of her childhood overcast with Yiddish and Portuguese overtones: "Pele, red-eyed god of the sleepless night: take me/ back to Leonard's on Kapahulu, all the aunties/ lined up for malasadas soft as their arms." This is delightful poetry.
—Ellen Kaufman

The Barnes & Noble Review
I don't know about you, but when I read this title, visions of soul-stirring linguistic acrobatics started dancing in my head -- along with those leggy girls gracing the cover. I wasn't too far off the mark. Partly because Barbara Hamby is an accomplished poet and author of three previous collections, including The Alphabet of Desire (a personal favorite), which was designated one of the 25 Best Books of the Year by the New York Public Library. But mostly because her verses have a way of wiggling, twisting, and rising up off the page and directly into your mind, where they take up residence (resonance?), lolling in a cozy crevice of grey matter, playing back at you at odd times. From "Mambo Cadillac":

...the world in two, make a hoodoo soup with chicken necks,
A gumbo with plutonium roux, a little snack Before the dirt and jalapeno stew that will shuck The skin right off your slinky hips, Mr. I'm-not-stuck...

I challenge you not to remember this as you eat your next meal. The book is organized in three sections: mambos (from the Bantu "conversations with the gods"), "abecedarian" sonnets, and odes. Hamby says she particularly explored the constructs of odes to create poems that "incorporated Pindar's wild associations and Horace's intimacy yet still had the syntax and diction of the 21st century mind." But really, all her work could be described thusly. Swiveling, strumming, and slicing through air like an Alvin Ailey ensemble, Hamby exhales a world the shape of associated conditions and intimate emotions out of her carefully chosen words. The poems are individually stunning. Collected together, they dance. --Lydia Dishman

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822960171
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2009
  • Series: Pitt Poetry Series Series
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Pages: 88
  • Sales rank: 538,211
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Hamby is writer-in-residence at Florida State University. She is the author of two chapbooks and three previous poetry collections: The Alphabet of Desire; Delirium; and Babel, winner of the 2003 Donald Hall Prize in Poetry.  Her poems have appeared in numerous publications including the Paris Review, the Iowa Review, the Kenyon Review, and Best American Poetry 2000.

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