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Inverse Sky (Kuhl House Poets)by John Isles
Synopses & Reviews
Part Baudelairian flâneur, an Arcadian shepherd, the speaker in John Isles’s brave new Inverse Sky encounters a fragmented history. It is nineteenth-century California, and the missions are still burning after the Americans establish the Bear Flag Republic; it is the twenty-first century, and the miners of 49 are relegated to a mural in an arcade. Both a loner and a lover, Isles’s pilgrim-poet takes us on a journey where Native Americans are “missing persons” outside a diorama of their ancestors, then sets us adrift in settings ranging from film noir to the clear-cut hills of modern-day California landscapes, under siege but not defeated.
"Isles's second collection is marked by a gentler, more lilting musicality than his taut, muscular debut, Ark. These new poems show him more inclined to stroll, drifting from one site or insight to the next, like a Bay Area 'Flneur': 'To succumb to the fleshly stream of the crowd/ trafficking in the equivocal light of this sea-girt place.// To keep oneself a stranger and a pilgrim.' An apartness — part scientific distance, part cloudy-headedness — characterizes much of the book: 'This life is a mist, a cloud in the making.' Readers may conclude the world's lightness isn't what keeps Isles's speaker withdrawn so much as a sense of powerlessness in the face of its destruction. Of particular concern is the sacrifice of the natural world to 'the absolute crap people buy' and how we cope with the loss by ignoring it: 'Redundancy sparkles in the marketplace/ And we in purest indifference look miles deep/ Pinkish flowers and ants we stepped on along the way/ The tiny lights — .' If Isles's outlook is sometimes more enervated than activated this time out, a number of take-charge poems like 'Evangelical Economics' prove that he is a dazzling and incisive lyricist of cultural critique. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
John Isles is the author of Ark (Iowa, 2003) and coeditor of the Baltics section of New European Poets. He received an award from The Los Angeles Review in 2004 and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2005. His poems have appeared in such journals as American Letters & Commentary, the Boston Review, the Denver Quarterly, and Pleiades. He teaches at City College of San Francisco and lives with his wife, the poet Kristen Hanlon, and their son, Liam, in Alameda, California.
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