Selected Poems: 1962–1985

Station Hill. Apr. 2017. 492p. ed. by Clark Coolidge & Larry Fagin. ISBN 9781581771497. pap. $26.50. POETRY
A standout among the language poets of the 1960s and 1970s, Coolidge (A Book Beginning What and Ending Away) here presents the early works of his 50-plus-year career in a sweeping volume, compiled with Fagin (Complete Fragments). In poems serious, playful, and prophetic, he upends formal language structures to re-create, reorder, and build higher upon meaning; after all, "why pretend that language means what is said" and not also what is seen and heard. The pieces range widely, from list poems ("Drummers"; "The Skippers") to experimental word collage ("By of Much"; "Scrip Ant") to atmospheric prose pieces that evoke place and experience ("to dark Roma/ and the vast hall livingroom/ terrace mists la luna/ and clang all doors their iron gating/ one star/ sta…"). Each in a different way probes language to decipher and then answer our questions "About all this talk/ about what is written/ a gesture as thin as that kitten…/ The words so plain, but not all names/ Not all names are true."
VERDICT Revolutionary in their time and still cutting edge today, these poems may signal a Coolidge revival, especially among the younger crowd discovering the poet for the first time.

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