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Jackstraws : poems
Simic, Charles
Adult Nonfiction PS3569.I4725 J33 1999

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From Publishers' Weekly:

By now, Simic's matter-of-fact tossings off of the gothic, the banal and the absurd are so familiar that it's hard to know when he's putting us on. In this 13th collection, less allusive and lighter in tone than the Pulitzer Prize-winning Walking the Black Cat, "store windows with out-of-business signs" replace "The famous no-shows,/ Truth, Justice, and so forthÄ" as the poet leads us through blackly comic scenes from post-industrial America's weedy sidewalks and abandoned lots. The "big topics" often get upstaged by images of small annoyancesÄflies, spiders and insects win a surprising amount of attention by climbing religious statues, crawling under the napkins of drag queens eating pot roast and provoking mock admiration: "Teeny dadaists on the march,/ You're sly and most witty/ As you disrupt my rare moments/ Of calm." But most of Simic's short, anecdotal lyrics coax depth by skewing ordinary activities, as when depicting lovers "running drenched/ Past the state prison with its armed guards/ Silhouetted in their towers against the sky," or an "evening sunlight" that would corner the speaker, "to tell me so much,/ To tell me absolutely nothing." The long sequences that end the collectionÄ"The Toy, "Talking to the Ceiling" and "Mystic Life"Äare among his best: promisingly experimental in structure, crammed with bits of conversation, off-center quips, invocations and definitions ("Memory, all-night's bedside tatto artist") that rise above the quotidian world they alternately parody and celebrate. Simic's sly and precocious speakers are at their best when showing us "how quiet the world gets,/ When you roll your eyes back and look." (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

With James Tate, Mark Strand, and others, Simic led American poetry's turn toward surrealism in the late 1960s, establishing an eerily disjunctive but imagistically arresting style. Today the Yugoslavia-born poet and 1989 Pulitzer Prize winner continues resolutely along the same antilogical, irreverent path, but that path is now deeply worn, and surprise is less easily evoked. While Simic sets up unpredictable scenes that blend the comic with the ominous ("A pastry chef carrying a lit birthday cake/ Found himself in the blinding snowstorm"), he also falls prey to an awkwardness of phrasing that can read like an unsteady translation ("The smoke that was like the skirts/ Slit on the side to give the legs freedom/ To move while dancing the tango/ Past ballroom mirrors on page 1944"). Some endings seem tacked on or settled for, as if the poet had lost interest in the dream. Like any dream journal, Jackstraws is a mixture of hits and misses, not without invention but unlikely to add substantially to Simic's established reputation.ÄFred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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