From Publishers Weekly
While singularly up-to-date in their topics gas stations, stars, urban centers, "deep-fried... catfish," "teenagers" who "xerox/ genitalia" the poems in Conoley's fifth volume come dangerously close to their apparent model: Jorie Graham's oeuvre. Beyond some high-low pastiche, Conoley's real subjects are those Graham's style, on constant display here, seems to involuntarily bring forth; the fragmentary phrases, double-spaced long lines and phrase-long self-questionings here result in abstract speculations ("the almost seen/ luminous circle breaking to parenthesis") that raise problems about beauty, "system" and chaos, embodiment and relation, God and God's absence from the phenomenal world. Alcibiades and Socrates each get a poem, or part of a poem, to themselves. A few relatively compact poems ("The Masters," "Flute Girl") are unqualified successes, drawing out Conoley's own uneasy sparkle and shine. The rest of the book owes far too much to Graham, whose mannerisms though suited to Conoley's big topics overwhelm what Conoley has to say. Graham's method of interweaving everyday actions with empty philosophical queries ("What if there is not enough nothing?" writes Conoley), her attractively scattered sentence fragments, her stentorian openings ("That the transactions would end"), her domesticated jump-cuts and even distinctive props from Graham's most famous poems (birds on a phone line, for example) pervade so many of Conoley's new poems that this book is best read as respectful homage. (May) Forecast: Conoley's previous books, including Beckon (1996) and Some Gangster Pain (1987), both from Carnegie-Mellon, are well-known and well-respected on the po-biz circuit, as is the magazine of which Conoley is founder and editor, Volt. Poet-in-residence and associate professor at Sonoma State University, Conoley should reach the school-based readership that has been waiting for this title.
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About the Author
GILLIAN CONOLEY’s collections of poetry include Beckon; Tall Stranger, nominated for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award; Some Gangster Pain; and Woman Speaking Inside Film Noir. Winner of a Pushcart Prize and included in Best American Poetry, she is Poet-in-Residence and Associate Professor at Sonoma State University, where she is founder and editor of Volt. Born and raised in Taylor, Texas, she makes her home in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, the novelist Domenic Stansberry, and their young daughter.