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A former winner of Wisconsin’s Brittingham Prize for her first book (The Unbeliever), Lewis has had her second chosen by Stanley Plumy for this year’s National Poetry Series. And it is a distinctive volume, not so much for its style, which can be cumbersome and proselike, but for Lewis’s relentlessly bitter vision, which seems a cynical pose. Her runaway ironies barely conceal her contempt for much of the world around her: the phoney people in their suburban homes (—What House Are For—); stupid young people for their follies in love (—The Young—); married friends content with children (—Cross Country—); and—take note those who would study with Lewis at Oklahoma State!—her students in —My Students,— a bilious diatribe against their dumb apathy. Lewis’s affectless voice can be casual to the point of passionless, even as she excoriates former lovers, self-absorbed friends, and men in general. No doubt the experiences described in —Bogart,— the narrative of her rape and the rapist’s eventual suicide, and —Sexology,— a chronicle of her wild youth, spliced with sex-manual blather focused on male pleasure, together explain her disgust. Lewis’s false swagger in other poems betrays her sense of hopefulness elsewhere—even though she fails to save an earthworm (—The Rescue—) and a hummingbird (—The Hummingbird—)—and the power she felt as a girl who loved horses. Without rhythm, and full of spacey thinking, Lewis’s tough-talking poems rely on a bad-girl vocabulary, but fail to shock as intended.

Pub Date: June 2nd, 1998
ISBN: 0-14-058902-3
Page count: 80pp
Publisher: Penguin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1998