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Samuel Amadon, Like a Sea, University of Iowa Press, $17
As its epigraph reveals, this first collection takes its title from a line by Wallace Stevens—“The river that flows nowhere, like a sea”—a phrase that condenses the ruminations on perception, identity, and language that run through the book. Amadon’s genius lies in his disarming approach. He pivots on double entendres, shifts unpredictably, volunteers his flaws: “I run my hand through my hair, more of my hair / comes with my hand whether or not that is a new / thought is almost how I am pleased to think so.” Equipped with simple diction and fidgety syntax, Amadon presents a world refracted through distracted consciousness, recalling Wittgenstein’s precept that “Propositions show the logical form of reality. They display it.” Paradoxically, Amadon achieves such showing through telling. It’s a polyvocal, colloquial poetics, and the collection runs alternately casual, wry, sharp, tender, metaphysical: “a window I will open now // that it’s safe to say this has been a full morning / of staring through the half-reflection of my face // figuring out how it would sound / to understand every word you were saying.” The reader shares the half-reflection, the sound, and finds herself parsing her own notions of speaker, poet, and reader. Amadon’s assertions and revisions evoke Elizabeth Bishop’s injunction “to portray . . . not a thought, but a mind thinking.” Amadon’s chorus of voices progresses further, invoking Berryman’s Henry in the multivalent Dream Songs as they resist cohesion, impelling us to interpret their enjambed thoughts alongside our own.
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