QUARRY by Joanna Rawson

QUARRY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The dense and deliberately run-on poems in this challenging debut volume inspire the title with their slatelike angularity. Rawson adheres to the aesthetic implicit in her poem about Breughel: ""Density, meanwhile, sucks the marginal subject/back into the thick . . . ."" Both the poet and her sometimes confusing personae get lost in a thicket of clotted narrative, which seldom bears a clear time or place. It would be too convenient to ascribe her wild and fervid dreamscapes--full of dying flora, decaying animals, and rotting fruit--to the moment when the ""acid kicks in,"" but plenty of these poems seem etched in sober light. At best, rhythmic with an elemental sensuality, Rawson's intense language recalls the hothouse prose of Cormac McCarthy: poem after poem, set in harsh landscapes, seek ""the promised land"" along various border areas--some apparently in the West, others in the Mideast. ""The Border,"" one of the clearest, set along the Dead Sea, recalls working in Israeli fields beneath mountains holding the threat of Arab suicide bombers. With an integrity of image, Rawson also imagines facing death by renting ""a window in a foreign border town,"" and, elsewhere, she plays an antique organ ""during the stranded border of winter."" A number of poems recall the sententious litanies of Jorie Graham: Rawson lays on one odd statement after another, building to a beguiling accumulation of strange notions (""What we don't know hurts whatever it likes""). There's also a certain sonic consistency to these poems; but the meanings are tough to figure, and strictly for the initiated.

Pub Date: Dec. 28th, 1998
Page count: 80pp
Publisher: Univ. of Pittsburgh