From Publishers Weekly
Recipient of a 2000 MacArthur Fellowship, Perillo has turned out a fourth collection of poems in her signature style: sassy, slangy and aggressively matter-of-fact: "So ta-dah
," she writes, "Here's the moment to which we've been brung" ("I'm not sure about brung,
" she immediately notes). Like many poets of her generation, Perillo cycles between the low and the high; she manages instantaneous leaps from troubadour poets to nipple rings, from raga trip-hop to the baby Jesus, seeking the irreverent in every possible moment of reverence, and vice versa. "When first they told me the serpent beguiled
her / I pictured her eyes knocked loose and rattling around." It's no accident that Perillo mentions Eve—women, and their usual second-class role in the world, are a chief subject. Although her tone could be called puckish in places, its wry quality doesn't mask the real feminist anger that's at the core of the book and finds its expression in poems on Simone de Beauvoir, breast cancer, misogynistic poets and mutilated dolls: "Darling / lamb chop, don't you look feverish, don't you look faint,
" she asks her doll, after she's finished removing all the limbs. Death creeps into the book's last section, but in her customary manner—and though she does occasionally give in to sentiment—Perillo isn't about to let a little thing like mortality get her down. "[H]ard luck is luck, nonetheless," she declares, and she gives us no choice but to believe her. (Apr.)
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Perillo's poetic persona is funny, tough, bold, smart, and righteous. A spellbinding storyteller and a poet who makes the demands of the form seem as natural as a handshake, she pulls readers into the beat and whirl of her slyly devastating descriptions and observations before they can catch their breath. Perillo sings a love song to her big nose, remembers the forgotten housecoat, describes crows as strutting "Little Elvises," recalls her girlhood confusions in church, and remembers her wild, careening past as she sorts through an absurd accumulation of tacky Christmas ornaments. But Perillo's humor is a sheath concealing precisely sharpened daggers. For all their brio, these entrancing lyrics are about abandoned dreams and making do, degenerative illness and a polluted Earth, injury, age, and death. Birds embody resilience and fragility, beauty and transience, flight and the inevitable return. The fluid grace of Perillo's irresistible lines belies the tension inherent in their outlook, the resistance to easy emotion and obvious sentiment, the rejection of self-pity in favor of flinty humor and rigor. Sheer, shivery pleasure to read, Perillo's poems have extensive appeal. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved