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Nomina (American Poets Continuum) Paperback – April 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her previous collection, Spar (2002), Volkman stripped away the formal conventions of lineated verse (as well as overtly stated subject matter) to explore what a poem could say in prose, using rhythm, sound and tone as her principal tools of meaning-making. In this third collection, a sequence of 50 untitled, rhymed sonnets, she takes her interrogation of the poem as formal machine a step further, using English poetry's most famous form as her guide. Like her prose poems, these sonnets are concerned with love and some notion of a higher, or other, power, or at least with the capacity of language to bridge the gap between addressor and addressee, seeking a nascent book/ in which the wind has written. Channeling Emily Dickinson, the poems are at once fierce, ravished, perplexed and perplexing (If final fell/.../ would time annul the zero in the laws?), gesturing toward sense, never quite making it, yet mysteriously giving and withholding enough to keep the reader in their thrall. (Apr.)
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Review

“There is no question that these are athletic poems; they open their fullest flower to those with a strong vocabulary…This abstract web of multiple meanings feels, on first reading, extremely reticent, even rarefied. When the words are illuminated against the sonics, however, the poems literally explode…It is extremely fine work, and finely wrought.”
Poetry International #17
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Product Details

  • Series: American Poets Continuum (Book 109)
  • Paperback: 72 pages
  • Publisher: BOA Editions Ltd. (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934414069
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934414064
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,168,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Karen Volkman was born in Miami and received her B.A. from New College in Sarasota, Florida, and an M.A. from Syracuse University. Her first book, Crash's Law, was a National Poetry Series selection, published by W.W. Norton in 1996. Her second book, Spar

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on April 15, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I made a mistake with this one, and I blame no one but myself. I read a lot of poetry in journals and magazines, and I have made it my policy not to read a collection until I have learned to like a poet through the periodicals. There is simply too much poetry to read to waste time on authors that I am not likely to appreciate. Unfortunately, I did not follow my rule with Ms. Volkman.

Instead, I read about Ms. Volkman's work. (I cannot now remember where.) I read that this collection of hers is sonnets that really push the envelope with the form. As a great fan of the sonnet, I thought I had much to gain by checking this one out, but I didn't come away with much.

Clearly, Ms. Volkman is a very intelligent person with poetic talent; however, she does too many things that rub me the wrong way. She often uses short, choppy phrasing which detracts from the form, in my opinion. She has a powerful vocabulary but too often uses obscure and/or obsolete words which tend to hide meaning. She often pushes the use of alliteration to the breaking point. And, since I'm being picky, I tend to dislike poems without titles. (I don't know why. It's a personal thing. I just don't like it.)

That's not to say that there aren't some great turns of phrase here: "teardrops scoring their lesions/ in every substance that grieves", "Night is what she saw,/ in opaque increments deafening the tongue". My favorite poem is probably "A premise, a solace" which seems to have a wholeness that some of the other poems lack in addition to its beautiful, descriptive language.

Still, in the end, I felt that reading her poetry was too much work for too little rewards. I like to work for my poetic insights, but even I run out of patience sometimes.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Hargraves Raves on June 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
Although Karen Volkman's Nomina has beautiful phrasing, this collection of sonnets puzzles me. There seems a lack of purpose unless it is to string together a series of pretty and often over-alliterative phrases. It is this lack of wholeness that leaves me wondering if she is playing with her audience. Does she mean to replace purpose with motif ("blue egg", "blue beneficence", "blue mirror", "bluest blankness")? Volkman pushes edginess by using adjectives as verbs ("distinct the dolor"), adverbs as nouns ("whether in the where", and verbs as nouns ("we are taught the drowns"). I fail to understand phrasing such as "kind the killing". For those who are not familiar with her work, I recommend reading some of her work on the internet or in other publications before buying this book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso' on December 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
A sonnet shape does not a sonnet make. Not only is this the sheerest sub-Hopkins mumbojumbo ('Anticipants accrue void to your harrow-vowel') but Stephen Burt's effusive back-cover blurb merely compounds the obfuscation. Rimbaud indeed!
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Poetry Reader on January 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
It's not only hard to think of these as sonnets, it's hard to think of them as poems. Is it possible to imagine a more grade school version of couplets than the following (used in the ad):

grass-grown remembrance of a second look
the field holds open like a nascent book
in which the wind has written, Sudden strays,
sudden numbers beat-the roots of days
branched intangibles a stupor took
and slept and stroked and scattered in a shook

Can this really be taken seriously?

The field holds open like a "nascent book"?

"branched intangibles of a stupor took
and slept and stroked and scattered in a shook?

It may be that that this poet has taken on the burden of a form whose weight she is not quite ready to bear. The sonnet is not a matter of counting on the fingers, though I wish her well as her talents grow.
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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful By I X Key on April 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
Karen Volkman's third book of poetry affirms that she continues to be one of the most pressing & talented poets we have. This book is a searing song-- no syllable ever misses a millimeter. Here should leave a mark. Volkman's highly musical words are like Milton dipped Petrarch's mood in a patient etherized upon a table with a rinse of Dante's terza rima. Sexy. The flow of sonnets is uninterrupted ever. The unbroken, pellucid sonnet sequence assembled here is a read for the ear.
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