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This review is taken from PN Review 159, Volume 31 Number 1, September - October 2004.

FULLY ALIVE MATTHEW ZAPRUDER, American Linden (Tupelo Press) $14.95

A first-time reader of these poems will find them decidedly contemporary but also curiously old-fashioned, fiercely original but also (for lack of a better phrase) humbly derivative. In American Linden Matthew Zapruder often relies on the surrealistic mode, now apparently back in fashion, spiced up by some obligatory postmodern manoeuvres like semantic deferral and fragmented speaking persona. Judging by the lines like `A bed not zoned for sleep / kept dreaming of forests', `A can opener smiles on the night table' or `A black flower blooms in his chest', Zapruder has read a lot of Breton, Eluard, and Reverdy. But it would be unfair to classify him as a kind of postmodern surrealist or surrealist postmodernist. In Materia Poetica Wallace Stevens faults French surrealism for its tendency to separate art from reality: `To make a clam play an accordion is to invent not to discover.' Such bad surrealism is not found in American Linden. No clams playing accordions here, but poems willing to reveal, discover, arrive: `the newspaper on my doorstep / is blank unconditional silence', `The day is wearing a white lab coat', `What flower do you bring a flower?' Zapruder's poems tend to be coolly intellectual in the manner of Magritte and de Chirico rather than merely sensual in the manner of, say, Salvador Dali.

The painterly analogy is appropriate here, as many poems in the collection reveal Zapruder's ability to make his poems work well on the visual level. If Zapruder had not been ...


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