Synopses & Reviews
"Once associated with the controversial, difficult 1970s and '80s group called Language Poets, Armantrout has more recently emerged into sustained critical acclaim: this ninth book (her second since the 2003 new and selected Veil) should see a breakthrough into wider attention. Armantrout's topics have not changed: emotional and philosophical skepticism; mysterious and haunting dreams 'the way sleep scrambles/ life's detritus'; the meanings and betrayals of words; and the frustrations and difficulties of communication in an all-too-consumerist culture. Nor have her instantly recognizable techniques altered much: short-lined, witty, taciturn stanzas ask why 'Everything sparkles and/ then doesn't,' or explore in a poem that also describes the film Toy Story the 'gap/ ...where the soul/ was thought to live.' Focused on small units syllables, glimpses, ideas the poems remind us how hard it is to even try to understand things for ourselves, how we can fight to resist the temptation to see society as it wants to be seen. Always smart, given to a sardonic humor, and surprisingly down-to-earth, Armantrout may confound readers who seek long, detailed stories or who want poems that give them clear hopes. Now that American popular culture accommodates so much disjunction, self-reference and irony, this could be the year when more readers discover Armantrout, too." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In her latest collection, Rae Armantrout considers the shaping effects of language in the context of new and frightening global realities. Attempting to imagine the unimaginable and see the unseen, Armantrout evokes a "next life" beyond the current, and too often degraded, one. From the new physics to mortality, Armantrout engages with the half-seen and the half-believed. These poems step into the dance of consciousness and its perennial ghost partner--"to make the world up/of provisional pairs." At a time when our world is being progressively despoiled, Armantrout has emerged as one of our most important and articulate authors. These poems push against the limit of knowledge, that event-horizon, and into the echoes and phantasms beyond, calling us to look toward the "next life" and find it where we can.