Publishers WeeklyOut of Iowa come two ambitious first books that combine collage, Continental philosophy and disjunction with unusually strong commitments to particular subjects. Robyn Schiff's Worth spins hyperarticulate verbal patterns and tragic (or melodramatically hinted-at) plots around the arts of jewelry, parfumerie, and fashion design. Schiff (who holds an MFA from Iowa and a degree in medieval studies) gives her poems titles like "House of Dior," "House of De Beers," "Chanel no. 5" -except for seven poems named after finches. In long quotations and glimmering descriptive phrases reminiscent at times of Cole Swensen, at other times of Lucie Brock-Broido, Schiff creates with disturbing ease a high-stakes, often hyper-aestheticized world of royalty, glass cases, and tormented souls: "Dear Tapestry-Master,/ Where does the Devil Finch nest in your design?/ Dearly Appointed Chef,/ I am dissatisfied."
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