It Becomes You

Graywolf. 2013. 104p. ISBN 9781555976323. $15. POETRY
This latest from Beatrice Hawley Award- winner Gibson (Polar) is full of pithy phrases that, taken alone, will delight readers. Consider these lines from "The First American": "the act of/ breathing is little more than the ability/ to recover from running out of breath." Or these from "Maybe Minorly": "And as when the worst of the storm finally arrives—/ which is also the best of the storm—/ night falls." Unfortunately, these lines—so pleasingly organic and nebulously connected—do not occur often enough. Gibson's impulse is to finagle the poems toward narrative closure, as in "The Minneapolis Poem," when reaching the airport the speaker thinks: "strangers/ will search my body and find nothing except this poem, perhaps forgotten in my back pocket." Clearly the poem was not forgotten. In fact, the speaker's tendency to keep mentioning writing will pull many readers out of several otherwise engaging poems.
VERDICT Best described as inconsistent, the poems here are caught quite severely between two styles—clear narrative (think Tony Hoagland) and epigrammatic phraseology (think Dean Young)—and to the disappointment of the reader finally settle on neither.

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