At first glance, Goldbarth's poems look like nothing more than a gorgeous pile-up of odd facts, but look again; the poet carefully structures his work for maximum effect, bringing together a rich array of information that helps reshape our view of the world. "No one can so deftly draw as many large and disparate chunks of the world into a poem," observed LJ reviewer Fred Muratori when recommending this work.
A National Book Critics Circle Award winner for his Heaven and Earth, and the author of numerous other volumes of verse, Goldbarth relies on a wealth of odd facts and arcane information as points of departure for his often gimmicky poems. Self-conscious to a fault, Goldbarth tries to ingratiate himself with readers-an air of desperation lurks behind his chummy demeanor in poem after anecdotal poem, many of which return to his recurrent effort to link past and present, high and low culture, and the mythic with the everyday. The last is dramatized in the narrative sequence "Heart on a Chain" (divided as sonnets): here, a female archaeologist, far from her lover, says "yes to ectoplasm" while exploring the spirits of the dead. In the long narrative "The Two Domains," the ghosts of the past converge directly with the present when a ghostbuster is hired by a notions manufacturer to exorcize the restless spirits from a warehouse-like many of Goldbarth's poems, it ends with a Vonnegut-like "so it goes," and a reaffirmation of how little we know. "Two Cents" similarly reminds us that "everybody/alive is small against the dead," as we are in the scheme of science, at least as rendered in Goldbarth's pop-"NOVA" versions of unusual phenomena, whether pixels or pink river dolphins.