Geoffrey Dyer, The Dirty Halo of Everything (SF: Krupskaya, 2003). 79 pages. $11.
I picked this up from the library because it was one of the few more promising poetry books in the collection from the past couple of years.
Dirty Halo opens in the middle ["Since then there has been wind" (11)] and meanders slowly through an extended dreamscape collision of image/objects (snakes, balloons, ponies...). There were a few instances where I felt less than convinced: I think all poets who've read any theory at all should avoid using words like "signify" flatly; the big B second line page 38 looks every bit like bad proofreading; and other snippy, taste based complaints that sometimes make me put books down. However, my perseverance was rewarded by an onslaught of nice twists and surprises:
"Who is inside, that won't let me in? Do you think I'm a homeless person? I'm Geoff. I lost a house, and gained a city. So what if we are not inside" (57).
Overall, a solid first book.
Amiri Baraka, Somebody Blew Up America (Philipsburg, St. Martin: House of Nehesi, 2003). 56 pages.
It seems strange that such a slender volume would need a 17 page introduction given the poet's already long-standing controversial reputation. Baraka may in fact be the progenitor of the in your face, giving the public exactly what it doesn't want to hear poetics that was somehow coopted then watered down into the seldom surprisng spoken word movement. Here, Baraka is once again unapologetically in your face and violently surprising. The fact a majorty of his readership will have already formed their opinion of the work -- for or against -- before they open a single page should not diminish what Baraka is trying to accomplish in this collection.
The book opens with a short series of poems centered around the assassination of Malcolm X and ends with the title poem and his rebuttal to calls for him to step down as the Poet Laureate of New Jersey. An interesting choice of brackets as both focus on history changing events involving Muslims with national repercussions. The book taken as a whole is a blistering attack against establishment America: "Ugly is the first letter of where you is. / Satan begin with a S. / Put together they is money ... / You ugly because you eat everybody and belch / Hollywood" (24-5).