Maureen McLane's This BlueThis Blue
by Maureen N. McLane
Farrar, Straus and Giroux $24 (paper)

Maureen N. McLane’s third collection of poems, National Book Award–finalist This Blue, contains some of her strongest and most invigorating work to date. In pert, short, often half-rhyming lines, the poems embrace their everyday occasions with gusto and their topicality without a trace of journalese. Wryly, yet powerfully, McLane suggests that past ways of ordering the world have become obsolete in our cyber age: “The era of common sense is over / & finished too the flourishing of horoscopes. / Hey traveler what chart to sign your way? what iPhone app?” This tension between broad social issues and an ironic, frequently humorous stance is matched by a tension between free verse and formalism. Through isolated rhymes that don’t fall into a regular scheme; through short verse paragraphs that resemble tercets, quatrains, and sestets; and through her use of refrains, which echo the villanelle and the pantoum, McLane, like a number of her contemporaries, challenges the liberties of free verse while straining against the limits of inherited regular form. Often, as in “What I’m Looking For,” her syntax is simple and her enjambment suggestive: “What I’m looking for / is an unmarked door / we’ll walk through / and there: whatever / we’d wished for / beyond the door.” What McLane is looking for is a revelation, and that can only be reached as she orders the world through language: “Take it up Old Adam— / every day the world exists / to be named.”