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Laura Allen

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The Dark Forest
Joel Martinsen, Cixin Liu


Versed - Rae Armantrout Now this book, I like.

It took four read-throughs for me to really find my way into Rae Armantrout's collection. At first I merely enjoyed the challenging beauty of the imagery, the language, the strange voice; I persisted, though, and after a couple of close reads and a couple of quick, cover-to-cover passes, I loved it for its sense. Armantrout has a philosopher's soul with a poet's mind, and this collection addresses (addresses? More like evokes-by-demonstrating) some pretty big issues.

What is the nature of consciousness? What exactly is it that might be lost when one dies? What's a person or thing's real identity, and what is "real" anyway?

Armantrout manages to wade through these issues as an almost pure observer without lapsing into simplistic solipsism. It seems that the poet ran all these questions through her mind and resisted every easy answer that arose; Versed is the record of that cognition. From "Heaven":


"Imaginary" meaning
"seen by humans"


I'd like to come back to this book in exegesis mode; it seems that it would be a very rewarding text for the critic. For now, though, I'm starting Armantrout's latest collection, Just Saying. I hope it's every bit as challenging, darkly witty, and pitted with unexpected depths as Versed.