cover image Lucinda


John Beer. Canarium (SPD, dist.), $14 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-9969827-3-3

"How do you make/ yourself/ misunderstood?" asks Beer (The Waste Land and Other Poems) in this sprawling seriocomic sophomore effort, and he finds a host of ways: sonnets, free verse, juxtaposed prose blocks, and much more. The collection is giddily unpredictable in tone and style, featuring the persuasively retro ("Arboreal themes conceal a second sense:/ Can you, beloved reader, follow me?") and the frankly sarcastic%E2%80%94"yeah, let's build/ a religion!// um, fasten everybody in." The work responds to the German Romantic writer Friedrich Schlegel's unfinished 1799 novel, Lucinde, about an illicit love affair. Some paragraphs adapt what seem to be Schlegel's words, in antiquated or present-day terms: "This concludes the dithyrambic fantasia regarding the condition of beauty." Modern poetry and pop-culture figures appear, most notably in the tripartite central section that features a fake interview with the cast of Friends in verso, blank verse on recto, and word salad along the bottom of each page. Beer strives to get beyond irony, to incorporate all the postmodern tricks and traps the poet can find, and then to join the German Romantics in their sense that there must be more than this, that love is out there after all. (May)