VOICE-OVER by Elaine Equi


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The Manhattan-based poet (Decoy, 1994, etc.) reflects the New York School sensibility at its most playful in this ninth volume, full of philosophic nuggets, jokey wordplay, and tiny--sometimes one-word--lines. An urban chatterer like O'Hara, a minimalist like Williams, Equi likens her poems to Joseph Cornell's dreamy box collages--collections of disparate objects and images that, in her case at least, seldom leave much of an afterglow. Cutesy to a fault, her more gnomic verse disguises a basic sentimentality (e.g., ""Starting to Rain"" or ""Night School""). One-idea poems include many that simply demonstrate their titles: ""Table of Contents for an Imaginary Book""; ""Karoake Poem""; or ""Little Landscape."" Poems meant to mock advertising seem more often a symptom of it: ""Armani Weather, ""for one, could be a description of a fashion photo shoot. Two poems pay homage to the transparent verse of promo icon Lorine Niedecker: ""Almost Transparent"" and the collage of lines from her letters, ""From Lorine."" Equi aspires to deep thinking, mixing high and low cultural ideas: ""Self Portrait as You"" imagines a multiple self and dreams of ""Heidegger's words/in Marilyn Monroe's mouth."" But most of the time Equi's abstractions are fortune-cookie heavy (""Sexual fantasies are more than just mood music"") and her imagery banal (Edward Hopper's ""figures lean/like plants/toward light""). Despite her linguistic pretensions, and her Asiatic posturings, Equi's poems are just small in every way.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1566890780
Page count: 96pp
Publisher: Coffee House