The Cold War

Sarabande, dist. by Consortium. 2011. c.96p. ISBN 9781932511956. pap. $14.95. POETRY
In Ossip's second book (following Search Engine), "the more you know about a doorway, the more you know how hard it is to use" is a statement that might apply not just to the automated doorways of our malls and supermarkets but also to the poem itself. "Cold War" is a conceptual, rather than lyric or narrative, exploration of the innocence and terror of the Madmen era, and the reader should not expect to be shepherded through its jumbled terrain: "You can't inside-out a soul. No one saw ours, it did us no good./ The tree grew in anxiety, the richest mud./ The four girls in their Easter miniskirts" ("The Status Seekers"). "American Myth" plays the story of Wilhelm Reich's "orgone" experiments, for which he was persecuted, against the Durants' popular fables of history. Ossip won't let language get the better of her—she keeps flipping it away from conventionality, which can make for a difficult read—and anticipates her critics by arguing with the priggish objections of the late Ivor Winters: "It is the old kind of poetry with half the meaning removed."
VERDICT A disturbing, humorous, and sometimes baffling romp through the suburban birthplace of bourgeois discontent that committed readers of poetry will enjoy.
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