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Antidotes for an Alibi by Amy King

Just finished reading Antidotes for an Alibi by Amy King. Lots of surprising twists and turns that often reminded me of Tomaz Salamun. Certainly there are a lot of young poets influenced by Tomaz Salamun (just look at all those young poets associated with Verse Press). However, I think Amy King's associative/surrealist leaps are much more untamed than the eight or nine Verse Press poets I have read (I know I am chicken for not naming names) and thus much more surprising. Some of these twists take an antidotal form. Here are just a few of my favourites:

"No Murderer knows what's being prevented / at the end of a bandage at the end of a knife / at the end of blood and egg" ("Southern Folklore)

"Next door, all the president's men / play guess the tail on the donkey / with all the king's men, which / sums redundancy since an ass / is inadvertently an ass" ("Conspiracy Theory")

"I sip from tin coffee cups / the flavor of her past mouth." (Homage to the Ballad")

"outsourcing is a very cocktail / piano." ("Stay at Home")

"I ate the apples and grapes of the woman / who heroically overcame her hero status." ("Love in the Afternoon")

"The anatomy of anatomy is destiny. / We oblique points of tenderness." (Cloud to Shroud")

"Camus must meet his Kafka" ("Editing Booth")

and my absolute favourite line of the whole book:

"We honor you now by filling / your stance with holiday cookie." ("Disappearing Spouse")


As I said, I found this collection much more engaging than the typical young poet quirkyness (whatever generation of NY school). There is untamed desperation laced (as in poison). An updated existentialist angst. Language recognized as language. The problems of the personal lyric are not merely repeated as a pledge to what might be called the post-language school of poetics, but rather the lyric is wrestled with and worked through (but not worked out). A kind-of off-balance romanticism.

I am curious as to whether this book was written before or after
(The Citizen's Dilemma.
The dance of the intellect (rather than the dance of the body) is a lot more central in The Citizen's Dilemma. I like both works quite a bit, but it seems The Citizen's Dilemma moves even further away from what might be called "The Period Style."

I must also admit, I do sometimes get a little weary of glibness. Not that it isn't interesting when it's done well (such as in Antidotes for an Alibi). Perhaps my little period style alarm is really anxiety for my own lack of originality.

I often find myself veering off into disembodied wonderlands. This book helped me to reclaim my body (and its big black hole)

I am really fascinated by the meetings of lyric and textual poetics. I am not as fascinated by the rejection of textual poetics in favor of the emotive lyric.

King's book makes me want to go back and re-read some Tomaz Salamun. While I am sure the system of imagery differs considerably, my instinct tells me both Salamun and King share a razor wit and more than a mere stylistic connection to the projects of surrealism (such as Dean Young, Tate etc.)

Anyway, this was a very enjoyable book. BlazeVox is looking hot. I am excited to get Patrick Heron's book. King's book is nice on the eyes and hands. The size is a little larger than average and pleases me greatly.


Antidotes for an Alibi

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Maurice Scully, The Basic Colours. Durham, UK: Pig Press, 1994.
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