China Beach

Overview

Poems by a poet, celebrated novelist, and author of the forthcoming expose of the American prison system, Vernooykill Creek, confront the bewilderments of ordinary life, for which we never seem to be prepared and which leave us in danger of becoming "ghosts" of our own exhaustion. A stark, enraged humor gives the work a brutal yet strangely delicate physical presence.
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2010-01-01 Trade Paperback Very Good 103 p.

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Overview

Poems by a poet, celebrated novelist, and author of the forthcoming expose of the American prison system, Vernooykill Creek, confront the bewilderments of ordinary life, for which we never seem to be prepared and which leave us in danger of becoming "ghosts" of our own exhaustion. A stark, enraged humor gives the work a brutal yet strangely delicate physical presence.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Perhaps the disjointedness and detachment of these poems reflect a deliberate attempt to mime the numbness of the Vietnam soldier--but, for the most part, this volume fails to engage the reader. Set mostly in late-1960s America and replete with references to figures, events and the popular culture of that time, these poems seem intended to confuse. Long sentences, with little punctuation and arbitrary line breaks, are unrewardingly strenuous; their difficulty is compounded by unexplained allusions, leaps in subject matter and abstract discourse (``the braided lines now of a teflon core's / depth of char closely proportional / to transient flaming's persistent ignition''). Many poems lack an identifiable narrator or stance; others include tirades so outraged as to be frivolous. Matlin ( Fontana's Mirror ) handles some subjects more convincingly: several poems about family members contain moments of tenderness; descriptions of the Southwest have a refreshing, almost scientific clarity; and the poet uses archetypal images hauntingly (``boats of the dead / wandering up and down the continent's central / joint''). But even these themes are incompletely developed; they do not compensate for the general obscurity here. (July)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780882680668
  • Publisher: Barrytown/Station Hill Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1989
  • Pages: 112

Meet the Author

David Matlin is a novelist, poet, and essayist. His collections of poetry and prose include the books CHINA BEACH, DRESSED IN PROTECTIVE FASHION, and A HALFMAN DREAMER. His first novel, How the Night is Divided, was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1993. His most recent book, Prisons: Inside the New America from Vernooykill Creek to Abu Ghraib, published by North Atlantic Books, is based on a ten-year experience teaching in one of the oldest Prison Education Programs in the nation in New York State. This extended essay is a discussion of the crisis of prisons, the invention of surplus populations, and how, in making prison our largest growth industry, we are mining our own civil disintegrations at unprecedented levels. David Matlin is an associate professor at San Diego State University and teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program.

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