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The Eye Like a Strange Balloonby Mary Jo Bang
Synopses & Reviews
The ever-adventurous author of Louise in Love looks to the visual arts for inspiration with this astonishing fourth collection. The poems in The Eye Like a Strange Balloon find their seed in paintings, film, video, photographs, and collage, and the end results are something more than a sum of their parts.
Beginning with a painting done in 2003, the poems move backward in time to 1 B.C., where an architectural fragment is painted on an architectural fragment, highlighting visual art's strange relationship between the image and the thing itself. The total effect is exhilarating — a wholly original, personal take on art history coupled with Bang's sly and elegant commentary on poetry's enduring subjects: Love, Death, Time, and Desire.
The recipient of numerous prizes and awards, Bang stands at the front of American poetry with this new work, asking more of the English language, and enticing and challenging the reader.
"'Art/ is the depth of whatever has deepened/ an abbreviate existence,' writes Bang in this fourth collection, comprising ekphrastic poems that search relentlessly for the meaning of — and the reason for — art in our contemporary world. The book is without sections; instead it operates by proposing its subjects in a somewhat overly direct and thematically oriented first poem titled, 'Rock and Roll is Dead, The Novel is Dead. God is Dead, Painting is Dead,' which ponders the place of art in the postmodern age. The book proceeds through a series of 52 poems to try to find that place — finding a meager, not entirely satisfying answer in art's resistance to the depredations of time. Each draws upon a different work of art, from sources as various as Willem de Kooning, Cindy Sherman, Picasso and David Lynch. Unlike classical ekphrasis, however, Bang does not attempt to directly describe the work of art, but instead uses the works as springboards for her signature quirky pathos and alliterative staccato: 'We are posing. We are poised./ This is where we live. We are ever/ but only when ever is all that there is.' The collection concludes in a poem drawn from an original artwork by Bang herself. 'Here darling, take this,' she writes, 'and Time gives the mouth a morsel.' (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
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