Lights Out    
Geoffrey Young    

Paperback, 2003
ISBN: 1-930589-19-0

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Divided into seven sections, LIGHTS OUT takes the reader from the supple brevities of ET TOI, BEAUTE, to the longer elegiac poems in THRIFTY, BRAVE & CLEAN. THE DUMP, a series of short poems, confesses the spectral tenderness of love and loss, while memory and experience give shape to the writing of AD-LIB and SAVOY. In a thousand word tour de force, MOUNT TROVE CURRY orchestrates an obsessive formality, while SPACE JAM BY BILLY HIGGINS lets fly with jazz-driven lyric insouciance-a lively coda to this poet's best book to date.


(Publishers Weekly, September 19, 2003)

Young has long been a fringe figure amid the Language Poets and the neo - New York School poets whom his press, The Figures, has published over the past 30 years, and this impressive compendium of recent work might put him right at the center. Young's great strength, like that of his compadres Michael Gizzi and Clark Coolidge, is his updated use of Kerouac's "spontaneous bop prosody," an intricate and seemingly improvised incantation of word and syllable whipped up to ecstatic length. Another influence is John Ashbery, whose floating, pronoun-occluded menace haunts much of the work on hand. This combination, in which verbal strokes and slashes accrete meaning through subtle variation, works surprisingly well. Young has no objection to sentiment, and an elegiac mode pervades: "Lester Bowie Rick Danko Ed Dorn/ Guys whose sounds I've heard/ For 30 years gone within months./ Remember what the job cost them." There are also formalist works; "Mount Trove Curry" is composed of 1,000 five letter words, its lines are arranged in wing formation like the Metaphysicals, mimicking sculptural gesture. Sometimes sense is sacrificed to sound, and sound to pun. Sections of short, smart-alecky riffs have too many clunkers, many of which come right at the beginning of the book. And yet Young can handle the short pithy lyric, as in "The Dump," a sequence of 22 poems in which a love relationship with a "Brooklyn Mona Lisa" crumbles away into "Danke for the obsequies." For years Young has been a "poets' poet" and, with his gallery in the Berkshires, a painters' poet. Lights Out reveals a poet without the keepers.

Copyright 2003 Geoffrey Young. All Rights Reserved