Thursday, August 26, 2004

Of all the books I brought with me on the trip to Washington, the most surprising, or surprisingly intense, is David Perry’s New Years. I’ve written favorably of this New Yorker (freshly transplanted back to hometown Kansas City) here before, but in this little, limited edition – Noah Eli Gordon’s Braincase Press has printed just 100 copies – Perry kicks it up a notch, maybe two. It’s like (forgive the sports analogy) when a power pitcher suddenly gets pinpoint control – they go from being a good middle-of-the-rotation starter into becoming Sandy Koufax or Randy Johnson. This book is that good.

Interestingly enough, one of the undecidable questions for me in reading this text, at least in its early pages, is whether these brilliant prose constructions are all one work or a series of independent pieces. You might imagine that this would be a sign of weakness but it’s just the opposite – each paragraph, set off by space & (with a significant exception) starting with a series of words all in small caps (yet another feature the new Blogger won’t support) is so thorough in its realization that they can function either way. Here is one section, a little more than midway through the book:
THE FORMAL TAILORING OF LINES forces a posture I can’t hold and I collapse in front of the mirror and everyone. It’s for a funeral, and while I make my split-second dream passage from boy to man and back again, the great swan boat in which my grandfather lies recedes into the distance, obscured by reeds. I’m only four, although six feet already, and freshly anxious that my new teacher might expect me to know multiplication. A pair of doves have made their nest on the fire escape, and I’m as happy as can be.
There is a crispness to every sentence here that cannot be faked. Do all four sentences refer to a single dream, or four separate situations? That this question could be answered either way – and something very much like it is true of almost all the paragraphs in this book – is an index of just how exact Perry’s sense of balance proves.

Since this book has been printed in such a short run & deserves actually to be read by thousands, it’s good that excerpts are available on the web in the DC Poetry Anthology 2003 and the Subtext Poetry Archive.

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