by Joel Brouwer
paper, 88 pages, $15.95
“And So is a wonderfully strange book”
“These poems hold on for dear life to the observed and imagined world, no matter how abandoned.”
Unpredictable, articulate and sad, Brouwer's verse-portraits, lyrical episodes and well-framed memories begin “among the starry refineries/ and cattail ditches of New Jersey.” But the poet, we learn, will never feel at home—not in New York, Paris, South Dakota and certainly not in the bitterly troubled, and perhaps doomed, romance whose vicissitudes hold together this thoughtful third collection. In unrhymed couplets and casual free verse, brusque fragments make sharp contrasts with elaborate sentences. Known as much for his criticism and reviewing as for his earlier poems and prose poems, Brouwer uses his deft sense of literary history to delightful effect: he calls one poem “Peripetia in a Soggy Snapshot, Featuring Lines by Ashbery and Pronoun Confusion.“ Yet the poem itself becomes a dejected meditation on an old honeymoon, as Brouwer (Centuries) pursues the dejection at the end of any joy, the fragility of any relationship: “Are you the you who sparked your love down dark/ wires toward me/ Is a money order/ tunneling the prairie between us?... How thin is the ice on the river tonight?” Brouwer sounds almost afraid to say what his answers would be.