The Do Over

Sarabande. Feb. 2015. 112p. ISBN 9781936747962. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781936747986. POETRY
In her third full collection (after The Cold War), Ossip presents poems that explore celebrity, mourn a loved one who has died (the mysterious A.), and share vignettes of daily life. The poet employs many modernistic and postmodernistic techniques: the use of white space, varying line and font sizes, repetition, capitalization, and freestanding punctuation marks. That said, several of the poems have a traditional stanza format, a few are prose poems, and one is not a poem at all but a short story. Ossip's strengths include humor, a distinct way of looking at the world, and a fearless approach to the famous: in "The Road Trip and the Apron String" she says, "A spurt of attention yields up/ me and Keats, iris to iris." At times, her phrasing veers toward slogans or makes little sense: "Perseverance is beautiful, and embarrassing./ How many institutions of power remain?/ Several. Several…." Too many metaphors either fall flat or seem so unconnected as to interrupt the flow of the poem, as in the long piece "What Is Death": "Morphine is the prototype narcotic drug and is the standard against which all other/ opiates are tested/ like a mother's arms." And in the poem, "Words to a Newborn," the poet advises, "You'll learn many procedures/ for mastering everyday life. You'll learn/ to think like a computer and like a plant."
VERDICT On the whole, this is a disappointing collection. The poems lack music, and the language often diverges into prose except for the infrequent occasion when Ossip makes the experience being described new: "I sit/ with hands folded, by a pond, a pool, wimpled by unknowing."
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