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Persea Books, $15 (paper)
Aaron Belz’s enjoyable second collection flaunts its unfashionable accessibility. Belz embraces narrative, brevity, down-to-earth diction, and slapstick. His approach resembles the New York School’s lighter side, where Ashbery’s use of Popeye in a poem evokes pop art and O’Hara’s conversational tone disarms the reader to open him up for heavier material that follows. The book’s longest poem, the seven-pager entitled “a box of it,” juxtaposes a nearly obsolete toy with a current one: “wait on the glider, / Mr. Potato Head, / and learn how to operate / your digital camera.” The past and present struggle to handle each other. In a later section of the poem, the unfixed addressee is the rapper Bubba Sparxxx, “whose jaundice / never shows because his / retelling speaxxx distractedly / of the women at Key Biscayne.” The typographical joke issues its own challenge to the persona adopted by a white musician from the rural South, and Belz doesn’t let up: “watch the glinting / forxxx descend / like the apple cheeked storxxx.” There is no gesture here that is not pervasive, whether it’s self-effacement, dissatisfaction, or failure to achieve common ground with others—even when that other is Al Gore waiting with him for a bus, or his next-door neighbor, Charles Reznikoff. But in “the love-hat relationship,” Belz offers a solution to the nearly constant alienation: “See if you can find something interesting about / the personality of the person whose hat you like.”
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