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Grace Zabriskie, Poems, New York Quarterly Books, $16.95 (paper)
Every so often an actor or musician decides to publish a book of poetry— Alicia Keys, Charlie Sheen; singer-songwriter Jewel sold a million copies of her effort, A Night Without Armor. But unlike the other vanity collections, longtime character actress Grace Zabriskie’s Poems is an authentic and spirited book, rooted in her New Orleans upbringing and in the same Los Angeles that brought us Charles Bukowski. Fans of the actress won’t be surprised that many of her poems tackle gritty subject matter, and she has a knack for building, without exploiting, a harrowing scene. She also has a sharp sense of humor. “Joan,” Zabriskie writes in “Queen of the Waste Stream,” “the ways I have felt about garbage / up until now, are, in chronological order: // 1. No way at all, really. Nothing.” At about 140 pages and covering the entirety of her 30-year writing career, Poems most definitely would have benefited from more judicious editing (perhaps we don’t need the entirety of Zabriskie’s writing career), but the poems that succeed do so on their own strange merits and not simply because they glitter with Hollywood fairy dust. “What they want is the top of you. Skin. / The look and the / way and the lay of the land of you, in / little / boxes,” Zabriskie writes, tackling from an insider’s perspective what it feels like to do what she does for a living.
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