A spectacular new collection by one of the most exciting and distinctive poets currently writing.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyExpertly elliptical phrasings, and an uncounterfeitable, generous feel for real people, bodies and places, have lately made Wright one of America's oddest, best and most appealing poets. Her tenth book consists of a single long poem whose sentences, segments and prose-blocks weave loosely around and about, and grow out of, a road trip through the rural South. Clipped twangs, lyrical "goblets of magnolialight," and recurrent, mysterious, semi-allegorical figures like "the snakeman" and "the boneman" share space with place names, lexicographies, exhortations and wacky graffiti ("God is Louise"). Wright alternates private references with clear allusions, as when images of eye enucleations and glass eyes culminate in a flurry of bits from King Lear. Deepstep teems with wry, rich sentences no one else could have written: "I left my chicory-blue swimsuit back at the motel where the baseball team cannonballed us out of the pool." She leaps exhilaratingly among verbal registers--from "kenatoprosthesis" to "trailer skirt," from "Arkansas toe" and "pinball" to "Ultima Thule." And she loves double meanings--"Morning glories. What's yours." Her uncharacteristically extroverted, ethnographic project also shows her sense of humor--"Her Aunt Flo said she hadn't had any in so long she'd done growed back together." In sorting these glittering, interlocking fragments of "self-conscious Southern poetry, preposterous as a wedding dress," some readers will wish Wright had included notes, or explained her extensive back story; but no one will need more information to cherish Wright's latest "once-and-for-all thing, opaque and revelatory, ceaselessly burning." (Sept.)
Library JournalBetter known for his fiction (e.g., Bird Blues, Mercury House, 1996) and several anthologies of African American literture, Major has produced a steady stream of poetry. However, almost a decade has elapsed since his last poetry book (Some Observations of a Stranger at Zuni in the Latter Part of the Century, Sun & Moon Pr., 1990), and previously uncollected poems make up more than a third of this volume. At his best, Major writes with a painter's eye. In his early work, his New York City neighborhood portraits stand out (the fights heard through the kitchen walls, the junkies). Fifteen years later, this same studied eye examines Venetians in "Surfaces and Masks." When he stays fairly close to the images presented him, his poetry is excellent; when he plays surrealist, juxtaposing unlikely images, the poems jar. Both the new poems and the selections range from the frivolous to the memorable, but the volume closes with Major's strongest work, "The Slave Trade: View from the Middle Passage." This 18-page piece assumes epic proportions. Highly recommended.--Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York
Kirkus ReviewsThis Arkansas-born Brown professor has written numerous books of verse and has also collaborated on multimedia exhibits about her native state, which shows in this unusual verse novel, an unholy marriage of Kerouac"s bop prosody and Flannery O"Connor"s southern gothic sensibility. Stylistically, it also brings to mind Anne Carson"s similarly collage-like verse novel, Autobiography of Red, though Wright draws not on classical literature, but on a wild mix of pop lyrics, down-home imagery, readings on optics, and just about anything else that plunks into consciousness. Framed as a car ride through the South, Wright visits only places of iconic significance or sonorous glee, from Poetry, Georgia, to Hamlet, N.C. (birthplace of John Coltrane). Lots of sass-talk punctuates the journey ("Shit. I burned the shit out of my shit-eating tongue"), and typography provides at least some visual variation in this self-consciously cinematic narrative. As tough-talking as much of this is, Wright indulges in moments of pathos for AIDS victims and a child blinded by Agent Orange. Careful to establish her white-trash authenticity ("Trailer living was appealing when I was seventeen"), Wright too often gives in to Forrest Gump"like pearls of wisdom and lame bits of anarchic humor. Wright"s unique voice is all rhythm, sometimes dizzying and delightful, and sometimes simply incoherent.
- Copper Canyon Press
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