From Stinko to Devo
This chapter reviews Charles Bukowski's The Continual Condition, Franz Wright's Wheeling Motel, Beth Ann Fennelly's Unmentionables, Marie Ponsot's Easy, Joanna Rawson's Unrest, and John Ashbery's Planisphere. Bukowski was the great littérateur of American lowlife, bringing an unaffected delight in every sleazy pleasure life offered. Wright presents himself a latter-day sinner, but the new poems in Wheeling Motel are surprisingly tender, considered pieces of work. Fennelly's perky, up-to-the-minute verse is described as having all the disadvantages of charm. Ponsot's odd way of looking at things is reflected in her poems that are offhand, spirited, and predatory. Rawson's subjects are smuggled in from the headlines—illegal aliens trapped in a boxcar in the desert; a young woman walking through Baghdad, strapped to a bomb; pilots back home practicing strafing runs. Ashbery has long been a master of American vernacular, yet his poems betray only the slightest awareness of the historical present.
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