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The Last Usable Hour

Copper Canyon. Jul. 2011. c.67p. ISBN 9781556593345. pap. $15. POETRY
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Landau's second collection (after Orchidelirium) explores the myriad ways one can experience city night—through moonlight, streetlights, bridges, and business neon: "I am always nighttime on the inside/ barefoot and heretic." The book imparts a narrative of a woman newly alone in New York after the loss of a "dear someone," with lines such as "the sleepers stacked/ and caged," which give readers a visceral feel for the loneliness of urban life. The book starts slowly—the first section includes too many "I" poems and relies on too many pronouns—but by the middle sections, Landau appears at her best in synthesizing loss and mining memory: "the smell of diesel your hand/ on my soft places trucks shattering/ broome street." Throughout, understated themes appear, disappear, and return as they do in music, and Landau is adept at capturing desire with unique details: "There's a little hole in my boot./ Could you put your finger in it?" Caesuras break the speed of her lines, and she reveals a painterly control of white space.
VERDICT This collection pulls you in slowly, but once there, you are transported by an assured dramatic voice that mourns time passing and love lost.

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