Pheobe 2002: An Essay in Verse
Turtle Point, 2003
From Publishers Weekly
Longer than Olson’s Maximus poems and heavier than an Oscar, this astonishing and hallucinogenic collaborative epic glorifies All About Eve’s Margo Channing as a genuine heroine, pondering the consequences of true love while battling inexorable Time and a young, ambitious rival from the sticks. While there are classic flourishes and a descent into hell (here, the ladies’ room at the Stork Club), it’s safe to say there’s never been a book like this, though Trinidad prepared the way with works like Plasticville, and Canadian novelist Crosbie has written gritty, experimental romans … clef (Paul’s Case, 1997) of murder and madness. The poem’s loony operatics glory in showmanship, as the narrative dissolves into arias of sheer technique: double acrostics, sestinas, calligrams including a champagne glass with “o” for bubbles, cinquains, villanelles and ghazals. Readers allergic to the inspirational “muses” here (including Bette Davis, Jayne Mansfield and Jacqueline Susann), or, for that matter, to riotous verse ambition, will come away with a new appreciation for the innumerable ways in which all nature and artifice are secretly and splendidly interconnected-just like the authors. Poets are not supposed to combine and recombine like strands of Rapunzel’s hair, and Conway (a New York-based poet), Crosbie and Trinidad have a great regard for their own skill and hijinks. Their transposed e-mails can be cloying, but the messy fun of smudging the boundaries between classical and popular culture proves infectious in the long run. In the end, the most preposterous book of the season turns out to be one of the finest.
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