Rae Armantrout’s Waves of Punchlines


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

One response to “Rae Armantrout’s Waves of Punchlines

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s