British poet Armitage (Forward Prize winner) sets up an absurd situation then tells a story about it. The resulting prose poems assume a pleasing energy brought on by the rush of language. Armitage pumps up his lines with figures of sound, synesthesia, and silliness, as well as the occasional metaphor. His latest collection concerns an alternate universe where clichés become the ideas that inspired them. These are cartoonlike poems that discuss phrases such as "SPELL IT OUT," or "I want some space." One soon learns that very little makes sense in Armitage's world. In the title poem, someone, hit over the head because his remarks are misinterpreted, literally travels to outer space and sees planets and stars. Another poem, "The Christening," parodies this religious act in middle-school fashion and plays on the name "sperm whale." One can almost visualize poems like "Knowing What We Know Now," about the opportunity to grow younger, this one presented by an elf--probably one of the Rice Krispies triplets. VERDICT Playful, irreverent, and sometimes irrelevant, the poems can catch one up in their energetic whoosh of words.--Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD[Page 92]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Armitage, the author of many books of poetry and prose, is among Britain's most popular poets (and poets are actually a bit famous over there), though this is only his second individual collection to appear in the U.S. (there was a slim selected volume called The Shout). It's about time we started seeing his work: Armitage is drily funny, clever, technically adept, and dark, but not too dark. The prose poems forming this new book resemble nothing so much as the recent work of the American poet James Tate, though they're not quite as wacky. In little prose stories and dramatic monologues, Armitage manages to touch on everything from the concerns of the sperm whale ("Don't be taken in by the dolphins and their winning smiles, they are the pickpockets of the ocean") to "the ruins of sex" and ill-conceived ventures like "Cheeses of Nazareth ("I fear for the long-term commercial viability of the new Christian cheese shop in our neighborhood"). The moral of all of these fables might be "don't get your hopes up," although Armitage does let a glimmer of light show through here and there, albeit at an odd angle, as when a married couple draw a curtain in the middle of their house, dividing them for life while simultaneously keeping them "inseparable and betrothed." (Aug.)[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC