Rae Armantrout’s Waves of Punchlines

Versed

I was pleasantly surprised this morning to open a package, in which I was half expecting to find another pedestrian textbook on essay-writing for my students, but which instead contained Rae Armantrout’s new collection of poems, Versed. The cover is gorgeous—a piece of digital art by Peter Ciccariello, whose recent collection of art, Uncommon Vision, I’ve been poring over with pleasure. Ghostly female manikin parts hover before and seem to merge into a rugged landscape. Opening the book at random, I find this gem:

Wires dip obligingly
between poles,
slightly askew

Any statement I issue,
if particular enough,

will prove
I was here.

There is something here that reminds me of Anselm Hollo, that quality of self-awareness, reflexivity, immediacy, the poem enacting its own claim, the poet conjuring her own DNA sequence in the particularity of the translation of perception into language. I remember years ago hearing Rae read in New York. I had only read her poetry on the page and didn’t really connect with it. But hearing her read was a revelation. The only way that I can describe it is that it sounded like waves of punchlines washing ashore, splashing over me. I felt exhilarated to connect with her work so suddenly and viscerally.

Camille Martin
http://www.camillemartin.ca

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One response to “Rae Armantrout’s Waves of Punchlines

  1. Pingback: Roundup: Poetry Close Readings and Appreciations « Rogue Embryo

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