cover image Ampersand Revisited

Ampersand Revisited

Simeon Berry. Fence (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-934200-92-6

Sexual exploits, LSD trips, divorce, teen anxiety, and mind-bending peers at boarding school provide the raw material for this haunting, charming, unpredictable reinvention of the confessional mode by Berry (Monograph), a former editor of Ploughshares. Some of the stories within the long-line poems are relatively straightforward: the older brother's cuddly, and epileptic, girlfriend; "the last summer when I'd gone into the woods/ to figure out why I didn't/ want to have sex with my parents' au pair." Other works break up Berry's memories into short prose blocks, arranged on the page like buildings on a city's grid, or in the shape of a cross. A hardcore punk brother, a self-denying mother, a succession of girlfriends or almost-girlfriends do not always come alive as characters, but that's as it must be, since readers will see them as Berry saw them, refracted and out-of-focus: "boys step out of the stories of their secret weekends smiling demurely like Venus & holding the smoke of testosterone"; a girl "screamed happily as the serotonin/ seeped from her brain." Berry can titillate and disturb, as well as spark insight; His fractured tales ought to appeal to readers of rebel memoir or those seeking to relive raw youth. (May)