Troupe's sixth collection covers a wide cultural bandwidth: the Monica-gate scandal, the Heaven's Gate mass suicide; jazz greats like Miles Davis (Troupe's Miles: The Biography is the standard) and Richard Muhal Abrams; sports stars like Michael Jordan, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire; lesser known artists George Lewis & the Dancers at Laguna Pueblo, painter Robert Colescott and many more. Perhaps to formally mirror the mix, Troupe puts sonnets, villanelles and sestinas in the midst of his more characteristic jazz-inflected free-verse lines. The best poems here, however, eschew traditional European forms, and foreground Troupe's mastery of a sprawling American vernacular: "the tongue in his hands now was once a saxophone when whole,/ was a blur of fingers whooshing through golden keys of his voice belling/....conjures up spirits, the drumbeat of strong hearts goosing everything along." Troupe doesn't quite go as far into uninhibited linguistic musicality as, say, Clark Coolidge, Will Alexander or the best rhapsodic passages in Kerouac. Yet his unwillingness to forgo the referential serves a powerful didactic function beyond "the tough aesthetics" of contemporary poetry, as Troupe often employs the golden age of jazz to challenge the de-humanizing greed of white, corporate America, as well as the way "rap reduced rhythms down to scratching old records & words,/ skating over samples..." The direct political verse of "America's Business: A Simple Prayer" is well-balanced by a series of poems commissioned for the Point Loma Waste Water Management Project in San Diego, Calif., where some tankas and haikus found here are also inscribed underground, to be seen only by construction workers. In all, the book's five sections "blow out an endless supply/ of edible solos," varied and deftly sung. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Troupe's poems are about music, about unanticipated rhythms and surprising sounds, from bebop to hip hop, from haiku to tanka and even to the villanelle. In "Song," there is an attempt at an ars poetica: "words & sounds that build a bridge toward a new tongue/ within the vortex of cadences, magic weaves there/ a mystery, syncopating music rising from breath of the young." With such attention, he offers a sestina to the "39 Silent Angels" of the Heaven's Gate cult; he considers "Forty-one Seconds on a Sunday in June, in Salt Lake City, Utah," when Michael Jordan takes a title game into his own hands; and he celebrates a Miles Davis recording of "So What?" If jazz dictates Troupe's moves, the world around him deals the subject matter. Long-range visions and social and political consciousness are woven into every page. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.
-Louis McKee, Painted Bride Arts Ctr., Philadelphia
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.