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Pleiades Press, $16.95 (paper)
There’s hardly a heavier adjectival cudgel with which to bludgeon a writer than “Shakespearean,” but that’s the comparison Susan Parr earns with Pacific Shooter, a short book of relatively short poems that, despite its brevity, compresses and contains sufficient aural wit and wordplay to rival books ten times its size. Parr’s poems are white dwarves, Swiss Army knives, all objects that both collapse and radiate, and the Shakespeare she resembles isn’t the dramaturge of epic sentiments but rather the goof, the weirdo, the writer who could not leave language well enough alone or resist the temptation to force a metaphor. Here’s the whole of “Honeymoon Killers”: “Diamond grinds diamond: / takes away the flaws. / Two faces worn in kind / warm to each other— / but like miners, both destroy / the mine’s reason. / They broach discretion, / as the prospect is mutual remove. / The race is to leave / more of the other remains. // Thus knuckleheads do candycoat, / and crackpots relate— / hope is their suite, / death, their case.” This evokes the distracted, brilliant mumblings of Romeo and Juliet’s Friar Laurence, freed from the burden of plot contrivances and dramatic necessity to derive loopy lessons from whatever summons the attention or marks the imagination. Thus Parr presents exquisite instruction for how to invent a ghost (“Wind a sheet around all, // then bring into the dark / the beatific twill— / this verity, commingled as, / at last: your uncertain someone”) and schools us in “Mint Linguistics,” whereby “In mint, mute contains / a green uncanny gel (a gallon / fill-up fuels their caroling). / As mint squeaks leave a fresh / shock, so a cluck’s a sloppy candy, / and palaver—promiscuous fungus— / rots.” Friends, it ain’t prose, glory be. Parr is our pleasure for all the pleasure she takes in words recursive and sounds suggestive: a poet who doesn’t need to burnish the world to know it’s gold.
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