The Complete Stories

Copper Canyon. May 2021. 96p. ISBN 9781556596162. pap. $16. POETRY
The title of Warren’s second collection (after The Destroyer in the Glass, a “Yale Series of Younger Poets” pick) telegraphs that the poems within seek to cross boundaries. A few are ostensibly about writing, with the title and the word novel used twice each, providing both humor and irony. Warren writes about childhood, travel, love affairs ended, and friendships that usually seem best in retrospect, and his metaphor-rich poems work a tension between beauty and the earthy and sensual (“The brewery smell wafts in the open window, tangled / rot and freshness. Also jasmine, and cut grass”). True to the “complete stories” theme, many poems have very extended lines— in one case, a one-sentence page-length poem—and the poetry too often gets lost in proselike writing.
VERDICT Despite the poet’s tendency to overstuff some poems, he has a distinctive voice adept at capturing the moment: about a tattoo session, he says, “I watched the needle in the mirror stitch / my mirrored skin like softly oozing silk.” The best poems change and evolve, working that synergy between brain and heart and a loved other (“I am sorry. And the child // we declined /// shivers on the long black lawn”). A worthy addition to most collections.
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