IN NATURAL LIGHT by Michael Anania


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The best thing about this latest from the Univ. of Illinois poet and novelist (The Red Menace, 1984) is its format: a square paperback like the old City Lights pocket poets series, this modest-looking volume also comes with a CD (not heard) of the author reading its contents. The small design suits Anania’s pared down verse: hoping “to catch the instant,” the poet often records “the day’s accumulation of objects.” Though he writes a lot about music, especially the blues, his own phrasings rely mainly on assonance and consonance for their unblueslike sounds. In short, erratically punctuated lines—his tercets are indeed terse—Anania resembles Robert Creeley. But his own verse often turns on the meanings of self: from an old photograph, he extrapolates “the self /in a prospect of birds” (—Somewhat Gray and Graceful—); in “Missing Matter,” he captures “the self’s ceaseless /hunger—; a drawing on papyrus prompts him to sing, “O self, self . . . “; and in “As Semblance, Though,” he charts a multiplicity of ’selves.” Despite all this abstract self-regard, Anania’s no narcissist; he’s primarily a poet of moments and images, though “A Place That’s Known” dwells at length on his mother’s stay in a tuberculosis sanitarium. “Fifty-two Definite Articles,” as playful as the verse of Kenneth Koch (to whom it’s dedicated), neatly demonstrates Anania’s strengths and weaknesses: while some of these little philosophical jests are smart, rhythmic bits of wisdom, others are simply slight in every way.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-55921-270-5
Page count: 92pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999