A review of
by John Olson
John Olson’s poetry is a linguistic burlesque show. Every aspect of the English language gets done up in feathers and spangles to shimmy and titillate, and you can almost hear the bawdy trombone accenting John Olson’s post-structuralist puns, his sonic shenanigans. He announces as much in the first line of this excellent compendium: “The exhilaration of poetry is in its gall, its brassy irrelevance and gunpowder vowels, its pulleys and popcorn and delirious birds.”
This exhilaration is far from what critic Ron Silliman calls the “School of Quietude.” With every word and part of speech, nothing is commonplace and everything is loud and out of school. Olson makes a poem by recording his superhuman sensory experiences as accurately as possible. Here is “Xylophone”: “a hive of bells / pollinating rhythm / and beryllium / beaten into rain.” Can you hear it?
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