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Many of the lyrics in Di Piero’s latest collection are sung from behind the wheel—“Doing seventy across the bridge” or “driving on pills and coffee.” Other poems of the road, less frenzied, more contemplative, are set on buses and airplanes. In most cases, the poet does not know where he is headed (or, if he does, he’s not telling). To hold oneself free from destinations, for Di Piero, allows detail and significance to emerge along the way. In “Oregon Avenue on a Good Day,” the poet returns home, “walking to find / I don’t know what. Something always / offers itself while I’m not watching.” And indeed the prodigal is later graced with an ecstatic vision of the ordinary: “fused presence, a casual fall / of light that strikes and spreads / on enameled aluminum.” Di Piero has a great talent for close description: Streetlamps wear “white boas,” while Van Gogh sports a “cerulean tie rhymed with lapel edging.” To accurately record what he sees, Di Piero is often driven to chewy neologisms: “taffied,” “fisty,” or “conch” (as a verb). Occasionally, these details pile up too fast, threatening a verbal and visual clutter. But such moments of overabundance are balanced by more stringent, more ascetic convictions: “All life / is hidden life,” he cautions in “Some Voice,” and in “Add Salt,” he admits he is “still looking / for the invisible life of things.” In addition to these lyrics of high quest and mundane travel, there are several moving elegies for the poet’s parents. Particularly fine among these is “White Blouse White Shirt,” which ends on a note authentically sublime.

Di Piero’s poems cling tenaciously to the real and hold out for something more true; they scour the world to see past it.

Pub Date: May 30th, 2001
ISBN: 0-375-41153-4
Page count: 80pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2001