Obsessed with work and dream, shot through with weather and color, Geoffrey G. O'Brien's spirited debut pursues the possibility of the lyric itself--whether the voice raised "with melodies/and thinking" can be rescued from the ongoing disaster of progress. In roving five-beat lines the poems pass again and again through scenes of liminality--sunset and dawn, falling asleep and waking up, border crossings--searching there for a potential ethics and politics of vision, a mutating, rhythmic "project" to oppose the inert spectacle of guns and flags. Like Ashbery stoked on sonics, O'Brien insists that the restless, unsatisfied motion of thought must hold the place for an ever-decaying freedom within the state.
Yet it is not idea alone that flares "passionately in our lives," but the smell of rain, the behavior of clouds, repetitions of waves: these are the subjects of a meditative ecstasy that advances The Guns and Flags Project as an inheritor of the Stevensian tradition, charged with a sense that history's never-ending storm of restoration and ruin cannot be outmaneuvered but might be withstood, and even revised, by song.
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Published February 22, 2002
by University of California Press.
Literature & Fiction.