SOUL DATA by Mark Svenvold


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Loads of sonnets and villanelles make up this first volume, the winner of an award honoring the late Vassar Miller, who shares nothing in common with Svenvold’s irregularly rhymed verse. Not an object or language poet per se, Svenvold often sacrifices sense to sound, though it’s not clear if his obscurities are deliberate. A long sonnet sequence, —Death of the Cabaret Hegel,— celebrates a Seattle performance space in an old factory situated at the continent’s edge, where everything is —all echo— and rain. Eventually demolished for a freeway, the scene it leaves behind boasts the glories of mixed zoning and thrift-shop hunting. Three later poems fail to capture the tone or textures of their subject, Thelonious Monk (who supposedly —taught us a lesson in liberty—); Svenvold seems more at home with the —60s nihilism of the Doors (—Variation on Themes by The Doors—). The poet establishes his working-class bona fides in poems about a garage during the day (—Work—) and during the —Graveyard Shift.— Svenvold’s sense of irony fails to illumine poems about his parents dying, even though they—re buried near Jimi Hendrix. Such found facts and a tendency to burst into pseudo-profundity (—you cannot connect—) suggest artistic immaturity, though there are glimmers of talent here, too.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-57441-046-6
Page count: 80pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998


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