Susan Holbrook knows joy is hard work

Susan Holbrook. Joy Is So Exhausting (Coach House 2009).

A wide ranging collection of pieces (they can all be called ‘poetry’ but many are theoretically driven, oddly comic, prose pieces that owe a lot to Stein, etc). A lot of them utilize found texts, carefully chosen & imbricated with each other, as in the hilarious piece intertwining lines from Constance Rooke on writing essays, a home-inspection report, & Walt Whitman. There’s a fine series of poems ‘to’ Lorca’s ‘Poema del Cante Jondo,’ & ‘A Kitten Sits Still,’ almost pure sound, as well as some brilliant takeoffs from institutional forms of discourse, like ‘Poetsmart Training for your Poet,’ & ‘Textbook Case,’ which uses an EngLit questionnaire for a final phone call between lovers. A lot of these elicit hearty laughter but in many there’s a dark lining. A casual brilliance at work throughout.

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