5 Books #5: At Least Two Views of Rae Armantrout’s “Versed”

Tiny poems composed out of even tinier poems placed in complex, oblique yet mysteriously exact apposition

Every possible kind of separation: line break, stanza, small spaces and wide spaces, numbers and asterisks

Frighteningly apparent intellect

Strangely sturdy and satisfying for their seeming sparseness

The very best feel as if they’ve been instantly remembered for 100 years, like lost work by a more tasteful Wallace Stevens or a more abstract Elizabeth Bishop.

Overwritten poeticisms, “limns / the wooden // filigree”

Crotchety didacticism, “The spread / of vicious talent contests,” “The new pop song / is about getting real”

Actual poems about the poet’s dreams, “All the service numbers have been changed. Why wasn’t I told?”

Trivial imagism, “A receipt / blown crazily / across the parking lot”

     So much happiness
     is caged
     in language,

     ready to burst out

     and fade