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Now You're the Enemy: Poems (University of Arkansas Press Poetry Series) Paperback – February 15, 2008
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It makes sense that obsession can be a driving force for creativity, and one sees it everywhere, if one knows how to look at such things. (Everyone's aware Stephen King has a thing about kids, right?) When you get into shorter forms of art, however, delving into the obsessions of a particular artist can either be a phantasmagoric-though-brilliant experience (cf. Richard Siken's <em>Crush</em>, once of the best books of poetry of the last decade, or the complete works of Swans frontman Michael Gira) or they can be like eating frozen lemonade concentrate; sour but delicious in small amounts, but you get to the point pretty quick where you need to vary the taste before it gets old. It doesn't help matters much when the obsession you're cultivating is trod so well there are grooves in the linoleum, and Hall's got the oldest one of all: mom.
"My mother runs even before she's upright,
out the unlocked door, down the concrete stoop,
pulling up her pants, over the lawn,
into the Sunday traffic, waving her hands,
saying <em>Help</em> in a voice she does not recognize."
("Portrait of My Mother as Self-Inflicting Philomena")
"Portrait of My Mother As [X]" is a frequent title in this volume, and while occasionally it gets used in a creative or amusing way ("Portrait of My Mother As the Republic of Texas" is actually the book's best piece, witty, clever, not at all maudlin), after a while it's like listening to forty-five-minute techno dance remixes of bad pop songs--thump thump thump thump thump thump thump thump repeat, and with bad lyrics on top. But even the worst bad pop songs usually have a line or two that's hooky enough to keep you listening, and so it is with Hall's book; the good pieces here are very good, and as long as you're willing to put up with the rest, they make it worth a read. ** ½