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by Monica Youn,
Four Way Books, $15.95 (paper)
Monica Youn’s second collection is tied together by the world of Krazy Kat, a comic strip that spanned both World Wars as it serialized the unrequited love of Krazy Kat for Ignatz, an enraged mouse who ended most strips by chucking a brick at the forlorn Kat. The comic’s endless repetition of this formula—ardor, disgust, brick—gives Youn the license and confidence to enter the endlessly repeating world of the love poem, a license she uses to mix generic expressions of desire—“She thought to brush her hand against his thigh. / She thought to trace the seam of his jeans with her thumbnail”—with those inspired by the comic strip’s surreal southwestern landscapes. The latter find Youn at her best, as do her brief, elegant sketches of the motions and countermotions of the book’s sweet-cruel affection: “O my dear devoir / O my dour devour.” The sense of lightness and play is just a shell in Ignatz, and Youn drills through it until the characters achieve the gravity of real life and the dimensionality of real bodies. There are no glib, one-off jokes in this collection: “running from Ignatz and the night / like a drumskin and her heart like someone // locked in the trunk of a car and if there were / only time god she would spit it out.” Even so, there is a charge of sheer pleasure—that of poetry, not comedy—when the narrative hits its apex, and our constant, cyclical pursuit hangs exposed, crystallized: “Her head / reared back // in an animal / posture—// Ignatz / as always // obliged.”
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in your carpeted office you lay my life down / and say open up to that small room in my sternum.
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