by Gillian Conoley
Omnidawn, $17.95 (paper)

Gillian Conoley’s sixth collection of poetry toys with a notion of “peace” as war’s contrary in a variant of William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”: half of a forgotten “co-presence,” whether two lips or two eyes, or “one hand holding another / a metaphysics their separateness a reality.” Conoley’s sensibility is sly and sensuous, but also nettlesome and more than a little iconoclastic (one of her previous collections is called Profane Halo). She reminds herself in the present book to “try to be like Marx / who said at the end of his life, I am not a Marxist.” Her writing combines a distinct regional flavor (she grew up in Texas) with a longstanding commitment to experimentation and to putting the grain of her voice at risk. Perhaps more than any poet writing today, Conoley recalls Lorine Niedecker’s daring anatomy and distillation of vernacular materials. The voice in this book declares, “memory rains all over my work,” and the image implies that memory comes in spots and spits, or in the misting of infinitesimal droplets. Indeed, Conoley subjects the colors of voice, and its narratives, to relentless splitting and threading. Some of her poems are thrillingly telegraphic and spare, as in “Trying to Write a Poem About Gandhi,” where each word or phrase becomes a poignant discovery, such as “my girl’s lost blue sweater hung on the fencepost.”