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by Mark Strand

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 2000
ISBN: 1-885983-45-X
Publisher: Turtle Point

An interesting experiment from former poet laureate Strand, whose last collection (Blizzard of One, 1998) won the Pulitzer Prize. This one consists of 20 poems of about 25 lines in length, each constructed around the repetition of a single word (hence the title). Given this seemingly restrictive structuring gambit, Strand exercises considerable imagination and wit in manipulating the form, occasionally taking advantage of the ability of his key word to act as more than one part of speech, but mostly utilizing subtle shifts in tone and register to vary the verse (all the more remarkable since the metrics are pretty similar throughout the entire volume). The individual lines run the gamut from surrealist juxtapositions (“The diamond-studded casket for the missing hand”) to gnomic fortune cookies (“A journey is one step too many”), from comic one-liners (“Loving the foot means loving a heel”) to carefully rendered images out of a haiku or imagist poem (“The sun throws down a ladder of light”). For the most part, the connection from line to line consists of the repetition of the key word, but occasionally Strand will string two or three lines together for comic effect (most tellingly in the “journey” poem). The result is a surprisingly engaging, if somewhat limited set of poems, mostly in a light-hearted vein, and an impressive technical feat that is not without its pleasures. In that respect, it is of a piece with his previous work, with its gentle and quiet wit.

A welcome, if modest, diversion from one of America’s ablest poets.