Where Shadows Will: Selected Poems 1988 – 2008, Norma Cole. (City Lights) $14.95
Norma Cole’s is the first book in City Light’s new spotlight series, which will showcase contemporary innovative poetry by both well-known and emerging American poets. City Light’s continuing commitment to experimental poetry is evident: one part of the series’ purpose is to draw attention to the small presses currently publishing outside the mainstream—Cole’s wide range of original publishers include Moving Letters Press, Potes & Poets Press, O Books, and Granary Press.
Slightly larger than their iconic Pocket Poet Series, the Spotlight series is beautifully designed and produced. Cole’s verse ranges vastly in form and subject, with a large selection of prose poems. Her dialogue with contemporary French poetry is especially evident. As she begins her poem “: Well”:
Eating and shitting pearls, we
tell each other stories, listening for difference
Even with a half-hearted listen, it’s easy to tell that Cole’s poetry is different. Where Shadows Will offers only the beginning of an introduction, a whetting of the palate.
The next book in the series is Free Cell by Anselm Berrigan.
to be hung from the ceiling by strings of varying length, Rick Reid (Black Goat, Akashic) $15.95
globetrotter & hitler’s children, Amatoritsero Ede. (Black Goat, Akashic) $15.95
With the two most recent selection from Chris Abani’s Black Goat imprint, the editor continues to explore the experimental. Rick Reid’s debut collection is an experiment in which the page itself is a “frame that superimposes itself temporally, aurally, and visually.” The text of each page appears in a sparse free verse between two centered black dots, which give the effect that the collection is a single page with changing text, “producing a process of both afterimage and surfacing.” The text of the collection is less interesting than its conceptual foundations, but in the current age of evolving print culture the book raises interesting questions about the physicality of ink on paper, of the material construction of printed poetry.
Amitoritsero’s collection is made of two long poems, each composed of 26 lettered sections. The first, “globetrotter,” is a wanderer’s reflection on the city of Toronto, and the second, “hitler’s children,” is about the poet’s experience of contemporary Germany, framed within his vision of its “enabling, overarching ‘neo-liberal’ political atmosphere.” Both poems contain glimpses of genius, but the first is ultimately better than the second. Amitoritsero’s strength lies in his succint marriage of image and abstraction. His spatial descriptions are superb. From section c:
you have no perspective
wide as the autobahn
and from section d:
##what does the endless
###########north american sky
###like those sex workers
in amsterdam’s love quarters
########she says simply
####################i am wide open
The politics of the second poem are organic rather than forced, and at times—as in the leading segment, “The Skinhead’s Lord’s Prayer”—the poems are simultaneously humorous and tragic. An impressive debut by the Nigerian-born former Hindu monk, a truly successful contemporary practitioner of the long poem.