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2010 Poetry Roundup 

The Hairpin Tax
David Appelbaum
Codhill Press, 2010, $10
SUNY New Paltz professor Appelbaum follows his densely textured, Patersonian Nieuw Pfalz and oracular Window With Four Panes with a suite of brief, often cryptic poems constructed in short lines and stanzas (“inmates outlive”; “come clean, void”). Typeset in a deceptively airy font, these intricate “poems of haste” baffle and fascinate. —NS

The Gate of Horn
L.S. Asekoff
Triquarterly/Northwestern University Press, 2010, $15.95
“A blue-eyed Dresden doll” birthed from a “once-shattered pelvis” begins Asekoff’s third collection, The Gate of Horn. Homer’s spirit portal, through which “winged messengers” relate “the avant-garde miracle of everyday life” ends it. A dazzling array of personae offer tragicomic tales in language surreally beautiful, crudely vernacular, or intellectually probing. “Listen,” advises an immigrant woman, “this island is full of voices/they talk & talk/….They stand in pools of light of time.” Yes, listen, as Asekoff works his literary, linguistic magic. —LG

Jumping Out of My Skin: Poems and Microfictions
Frank Boyer, ed. William Wilson
The Doppelganger Press, 2009, $8
Many will understand the youthful cross-country jaunts recalled here: “misty farms, each lit by a single bulb, spin by like asteroids.” Invoking Kerouac and Jimi Hendrix, Baudelaire and Rimbaud, Boyer portrays the Southwest (“the Rio Grande / glimpsed through rust-colored brush”) and a hallucinatory NYC (“subway steps slick with blood”) as he moves toward romance, redemptive but elusive, and “a fate we cannot guess.” —WS

(Nevertheless Enjoyment
Elizabeth Bryant
Quale Press, 2010, $13
Single paragraphs float like little boats beneath lower-case titles: “of what, in what was wanted)// “Little dark flower cup a black mouth or slippershaped flower.” Beautiful, but what does it mean? Readers choose! In Bryant’s thoughtful prose poems, we play, experiencing how language shapes our responses to each other, the world, ourselves. Thus “Some secretive shy birds must be flushed out.” —LG

While I Was Dancing
Steve Clorfeine, etchings by Christoph Zihlmann
Codhill Press, 2010, $18
Clorfeine based these poems on free-writing texts generated when he and a partner practiced “moving and writing” in alternation. In the opening poem, the dance provides a triumph of symbolic gesture: “Victory to fingertips / (their willingness to fill the air).” The remaining poems range in reference from Buddha to Cracow and in style from the lyric to the gnomic. Zihlmann’s Neo-Expressionist etchings offer a fruitful juxtaposition of words and visual art. —WS

I-Formation: Book 1
Anne Gorrick
Shearsman Books, 2010, $15
Like a mad-genius English gardener, Gorrick constructs intricately patterned verbal and visual labyrinths, easy to get lost in, thrilling to decode. In a painterly cycle of garden poems, phrases flash like red lilies. A second cycle, “The Michelangelo Variations,” weaves an idiosyncratic fabric of artistic, biblical, and automotive imagery. “In order to establish fact, we exchange seats / The I spreads out and it writes.” Indeed it does. —NS

Lee Gould
Finishing Line Press, 2010, $12
More democratically titled than Leaves of Grass, Weeds remains capable of a certain prophetic ambition. Though Gould can indulge dreams and even whimsy, there’s generally an edge to her fantasy, as in the screaming female mountain lion in “The Basics.” “Rope Burn” is incandescent with eroticism and “Routine Check-Up, Age 13” greets puberty with a vision of “skinny dipping every night / in phosphorescent lakes.” But death figures prominently in this collection: “We become at last food, God, for you.” —WS

Purgatory Road
Mike Jurkovic
Pudding House Chapbook Series, 2010, $10
“Welcome to the page the noir flicker/ Where my head used to be.” Beacon poet Jurkovic writes muscular, mordantly funny phrases that stick in the imagination like burs. In “Couldn’t I,” he sounds a lament familiar to many artists, wishing his work were concretely useful, “a craft of hands / not language.” Readers will be glad he stood by “my petitions / Nailed to the wall.” —NS

Set Theory
Georganna Millman
Finishing Line Press, 2010, $12
Set Theory proves less abstract than its title might suggest, quickly establishing an elegiac confidential domestic tone (“I will tell you everything.”) that focuses on mortality (“one misfire behind the eyes/ a migraine’s clutch rush of regret.”). Millman work is rooted in the region and in everyday life, including connubial bliss: “Slick rapture—I am full of anticipation.” From her Catskills window she sees “a shock of fresh blood” in a snowstorm whose flakes seem no less than “lovers in free-fall.” —WS

Love in the City of Grudges
Will Nixon
FootHills Publishing, 2010, $16
“My body tingled as if trying to grow feathers / Letting go, I grabbed at clouds…” So Will Nixon introduces his picaresque “irony-addicted” hero. Recasting his family as zombies, he yearns after “elfin-booted” blondes in “hip-hugging red.” Ultimately, he finds love, struggles with loss: “Once we read Yeats in bed / now we never stay home.” An affecting verse memoir. —LG

What’s Left
Susan Sindall
Cherry Grove Collections, 2010, $18
What’s Left is the joy that comes of acceptance. Contemporary Eve finds snakes “dangling everywhere…in curves deep as elephant trunks,” but “she’s adjusted.” Even contemplating death, Sindall finds comfort: “When I lay me down to stones, /they accept me as I am.” Her poems are intricately musical, passionately life-affirming: “Clamp your knees to / night’s wandering mare…The moon is mine, and I’m rising.” —LG

Inchworm Season
Pauline Uchmanowicz
Finishing Line Press, 2010, $12
Uchmanowicz’s intelligent, rhythmically precise poems focus on instability in a seemingly coherent world. “While above the scenery, the moon lifted writing postcards only it could decipher.” Cape Cod visitors “quick-waddle crosswalks with toddler // decoys…while year-rounders reminisce: “until names of the dead—by overdose/blood disease or drowning… pass among ourselves like lighted sparklers…” All are “Tourists” on this unpredictable planet, the poet reminds us. —LG

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