It's not often in the world of Amazonia that one finds a work of art that has received five star reviews from every reviewer. But Sarah Manguso truly deserves the accolades. Her poems are sinewy and funny and unpredictable (until you memorize them). What a deft hand she has in crafting these gems. I agree with the reviewer who lamented so much of modern poetry's self-seriousness. Well, you won't find that here. And yet, for me she is a poet to be taken very seriously, if you know what I mean.
The Captain Lands in Paradise opened up a whole new kind of poetry to me. The poems are spare, witty and pure precision. They contain inalienable truths like "Either a thing will happen or it won't" which has become a mantra for me whenever I'm freaking out. There is something very sober and fearless there. There is no... and no hiding in vagueness, each poem is urgently clear even when it takes you to Neptune. The precision makes the reader feel like he matters. Like giant things are being communicated with great economy, with no time to waste.
It's full of objects and animals falling apart to reveal "the burning mystery." And then more objects and animals come to surround the speaker and comfort her. She's lucid, critical, and concomitantly awash. She's the clearest contemporary _fille_ of Frank O'Hara. The speech is direct--Ms. Manguso's syntax and diction are not of a "fun" colloquial but rather of the precise, ringing exposition of a dream, and a mind, and a culture. This book will last; its shadow will cast large behind its palloring, once-pyrotechnic company on the new-poetry shelf.
Manguso's voice is conversational and declaratory, seeking--and finding--truth in luminous, mysterious metaphors. "Sometimes I think I understand the way things work/ and then I find out that on Neptune it rains diamonds," Manguso writes in "Beautiful Things." She has learned much about the way things work, and she has much to teach us. She is unafraid to make the important discoveries. Reading her poems is traveling on an important, sometimes frightening, journey with a trusted guide.
Manguso uses words like lasers to clear away the gunk on the coffin door of your whole soul, so you can finally lift the lid and see that the only thing inside are a few charcoal drawings. She plummets into the abyss confident she'll have time to finish her note before she hits bottom, translating every indecipherable obscenity on the ancient cave walls as she falls into perfect English. This is poetry as flashlight, it's only when you turn it on you realize you were alone in cobwebbed darkness all this time.
This book has become on of my favorites in my poetry collection. Manguso's intelligent, moving poetry is full of dark, fall-on-your-knees humor. Her work almost casually walks the line between dispair and hope, even lending the reader a smile and a curtsey. The collection is stunning, utterly beautiful. She is a bright new talent and I look forward to seeing her work evolve.
I mostly read novels but was very glad to discover Sarah Manguso's poetry. Her writing is an unexpected combination of dream and epigram -- you wouldn't believe that it'd work, but it does, beautifully. Instead of treating the self as a sump to maunder through, Magnuso tweezes it off the bone bit by bit and eyes it with a loupe, with the reader looking over her shoulder. She obviously loves langauge but is no show-off; nor does she ever become cryptic or precious. Her poetry is clear, serious, and lancingly funny. And sad. "That's a lot of dead bear" -- that line gets me every time.