Spar by Karen Volkman
(Iowa Poetry Prize)

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Karen Volkman’s award-winning collection Spar has as its central form a highly compressed, musical variant of the prose poem. Volkman develops a new lyric density that marries the immediacy of image-centered poetry to the rhythmic resources of prose. Her first poem begins, “Someone was searching for a Form of Fire,” and this wild urge to seek form—and thus definition—in the most uncontainable of elements propels the book forward; each poem maps the mind’s evolving positions in response to its variable and perilous encounters. Sometimes the encounter is romantic or purely carnal, a sensual landscape of human relations. At other times, nature itself has an almost humanly emotional connection to the speaker. While very much a living voice, the poems’ speaker is not a consistent self but a mutable figure buffeted by tenderness, terror, irony, or lust into elaborate evasions, exclamations, verbal hijinks, and lyric flights. As its title suggests, Spar embodies both resistance and aspiration, while its epigraphs further emphasize the simultaneous allure and danger of the unknown within the sensual and material worlds and in the mind itself.

About Karen Volkman

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Karen Volkman's first book, Crash's Law, was chosen for the National Poetry Series. Her poems have appeared in the Paris Review, New Republic, Colorado Review, American Letters & Commentary, and Fence. She is currently poet-in-residence at the University of Chicago.
Published February 5, 2002 by University Of Iowa Press. 72 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Spar

Publishers Weekly

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Volkman's speaker often adopts the pose of one who has worked through the riddles of existence as an English colonial might have worked through an Indian market, muscling through to get a better view of the multicolored objects and evocative scripts, which finally can't signify.

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ForeWord Reviews

There are lines seductive with rhythm and hint throughout: “Tender feather, tell me a flight thing, never a trap thing, never a fall.” “In the clairvoyance of loving wrongly, o glass pillow, o swallow, is dream is dare is dagger.” With glances back at twentieth-century French poetry and a grab ...

Apr 15 2002 | Read Full Review of Spar (Iowa Poetry Prize)

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