Wakoski (Inside the Blood Factory), approaching 60, inspects her changing body and does not flinch. She continues to forgo the complex imagery of her earlier work in favor of a conversational, confessional style. In this, the third volume in her The Archaeology of Movies and Books series, she seeks a way for a personal mythology to make sense of fractured, postmodern America. In ``Looking for Beethoven in Las Vegas,'' she writes: ``Driving West,/ old, enlightened,/ I still cannot fold up those/ maps of lost goldmines,/ abandoned trunks full of diamonds,/ of new countries and other planets.'' Nevertheless, the spiritual locale of these poems is the anti-Ozno place for Dorothy or illusions about one's self. Into her reflections as a ``regular'' in Las Vegas, Wakoski weaves quotes from Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, Nick Herbert's Quantum Reality and other snatches of text. The result is a close look at the poet's own inner conversation about what it means to be a woman, to be no longer young, to be a poet. Her presence in the best of these poems allows us to ask, with her: ``what/ does it mean to/ control the images/ in your life,'' when those images are often disturbing or incoherent. (Aug.)
In this successor to Media the Sorceress (LJ 2/1/91) and Jason the Sailor (LJ 8/93), the prolific Wakoski confronts themes of risk, betrayal, and history through images of Las Vegas casinos, Oz, physics, and keen-eyed recollection. Her free-verse proclamations and search for mythic meaning in modern America bring her close to the Beat musings of Orlovsky and Ginsberg. Like them she has the true poet's ego and often mistakes the world for her part of it: "Does that mean the history of the sky/is a reflection of the way my mind works?" She is never one to hesitate for exactitude in language or to apply the blue pencil; her best insights have a way of turning into long complaints or talky open letters, but, like good jazz improvisers, she often happens into a surprising chord of clear beauty, as in "Tea Ceremony": "The blue jay/swaying on the head/of a sunflower/jabbing at seeds/as he swings." A representative volume from an important figure in contemporary poetry; for larger collections.Graham Christian, Andover-Harvard Theological Lib., Cambridge, Mass.