Partly : New and Selected Poems, 2001–2015
LJ Reviews 2016 September #1
Read the poems in Pulitzer Prize winner Armantrout's New and Selected and you feel both taken by the hand—short, precise couplets march you resolutely down the page—and left utterly alone. "Sun lights up a pelt/ of dust on the receiver./ Being unexpected,/ this is a kind of call./ Cross names out/ and things are all made up/ of contrary, percussive, adjectival tugs. I remember someone wrestled an angel,/ a signal." That last line, "a signal," breaks to the right, away from the pack. (She credits William Carlos Williams for teaching her line breaks.) This is the poet's mind at work: the fritz of memory playing with a shard of local landscape, a scrap of today's headline, a passing shadow—dispatched to the reader for decoding. It is also the mark of the West Coast group of Language poets, of whom Armantrout is a founding member. VERDICT Armantrout, also a National Book Critics Circle Award winner, has described her work as "a Cheshire poetics, one that points in two ways and then vanishes." With pleasure, you watch her work mature in this volume.—Iris Rosenberg, New York. Copyright 2016 Library Journal.
PW Reviews 2016 July #3
For the last half century, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Armantrout (Itself) has stood as a quiet figurehead of American experimental poetry, and this formidable collection offers a look at her recent progression and her signature, language-centered style. The overview begins with new poems before skipping back to poems from 2004's Up to Speed, moving sequentially from there through her five latest books. Themes of time, the financial crisis, and cancer appear, and the new poems introduce a sense of world-weariness as Armantrout begins to look back: "I may want to lie still/ and think about my choices." Stylistically, the poems are remarkably consistent, showing off well-honed characteristics: short lines, crisp divisions, and a commitment to destabilizing meaning through segmentation. "We've made camp/ in the glitch," she writes, and her poems thrive on that jarring quality, with great gaps between points of reference, images, and connotations. Armantrout often writes as though beginning mid-sentence, leaving the reader to contextualize and construe. "The spray/ of all possible paths," reads a couplet, immediately unsettled by "Define possible." Words beget questions and more words in Armantrout's haphazard world, so her work requires a little patience. But, as she writes, "Like God, I will leave// an arc/ of implication," and it's the implication that she explores—a stirring feeling of something illuminating, just out of reach. (Aug.)[Page ]. Copyright 2016 PWxyz LLC