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Making nakedness boring. Aug 19, 2008
James D'Agostino, Nude with Anything (New Issues, 2006)
You know you're in trouble with a book of poetry when the very first poem is either so badly-edited that it makes no sense or, worse, the poet meant it to be that way:
"Soon we're able to say//a little storm on which the sun was kind/of shining made a monochrome/of many things and silver light, day//enough to feel assured we fully understand/the impact of skin on raindrops, innocent/bystanders at whose hands this lays itself//open. Outside the skin, for instance, circled/the kitchen and Mozart on the radio...." ("Against Vanishing")
Missed words and punctuation marks, or a failed attempt at dada? I'm not sure. There are some great images in that poem, and some really good inversions ("...the impact of skin on raindrops..."), but it just doesn't hold up as a whole. The collection does get better, and at times the reader can see what it is D'Agostino is trying to do (he does it most successfully in "Findable", the final poem in the second section, and from there the book just plain gets better and better), but uncovering the pearls requires moving through a good deal of swine. It's certainly not the worst book of poetry I've ever read-- nor, in fact, is it the worst book of poetry I've read this month-- and should D'Agostino come up with a second book, I'll certainly be giving it a look to see if he continues on down the road explored in the later poems here. But this one has too much that could have used another rewrite or two. **