Fragile Acts

Allan Peterson. McSweeney’s (PGW, dist.), $18 (104p) ISBN 978-1-936365-80-7
In his fourth volume, Peterson combines lessons learned from the poetry of John Ashbery with wisdom from his own long career as a practitioner and professor of the visual arts to create poems that work a bit like what might result if Shakespeare’s sonnets mated with paintings by the abstract expressionists. Peterson’s poems shift briskly between thoughts and images, but hold onto the emotions that bind these poems together. Often, Peterson is elegiac in tone, but as alert to the new lives engendered by what’s lost as he is saddened by the loss itself, “how much diminishment it takes/ before we notice the most meaningful instances:/ water shuddering in one place,/ asleep in another.” Humor and profundity bubble out of the same source: “Like baby corns in Cashew Chicken the ideas of the soul are plentiful/ and poorly developed.” Poems stop themselves suddenly before swerving, yielding unexpected truths through observation: “A fish with an osprey in its back emerges from the Sound/ and nothing can be learned by more analysis.” While Peterson isn’t creating a wholly new poetry, he also isn’t simply reiterating an old one: his work demands, and deserves, attention. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/16/2012
Release date: 06/01/2012
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