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Starred Review. In her follow-up to the National Book Critics Circle Award–winning Elegy, Bang is up to some of her old tricks again, but the previous collection's tour of a loss-inflected world has also taught her some new ones. The book takes the alphabet as its jumping-off point, with one or more poems titled for each letter (A Equals All of a Sudden, Beast Brutality, etc.) Here again are Bang's quirky poetic leaps (In another corner, Freud says, Yes/ In the dark of primitive desire means yes/ Forever), but somehow they are more foreboding than before, the wild associations of a haunted mind: The note rises from something awful./ A woman in a jam. Train wreck of crumpled cars. Poems vamp on literature, fables, fairy tales, pop culture icons (like Cher) and shards of a lost childhood world. One poem rewrites Poe's most famous work (Her name is Lenore Nevermore), while B is for Beckett sums up the Nobel laureate's work in one line: There is so little to say. The book concludes with a short series of prose pieces that flirt with memoir. This book bridges a gap between an experimental tradition in American poetry and an older high lyric tradition. This is some of Bang's best writing, and one of the most exciting books of the year. (Oct.)
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Mary Jo Bang is writing the English of our second millennium, worthy of the first: indeed, traipsing the chasm between! (Richard Howard)
Mary Jo Bang's poems are musically virtuosic, fearlessly revealing, and achingly sad. (Kevin Prufer, Critical Mass)