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This review is taken from PN Review 267, Volume 49 Number 1, September - October 2022.

Cover of Venice
MaitreyabandhuAnge Mlinko, Venice (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) $26.00
Ange Mlinko’s poetry extinguishes any lingering claim that rhyme and metre are patriarchal, fuddy-duddy, or incapable of confronting the complexities of modern life. Her formal dexterity combined with humour and tenderness make her the poetic grandchild of James Merrill and Elizabeth Bishop. She has Bishop’s reticence and Merrill’s Mozartian flare.

Setting up shop in that most demanding terrain, metre and rhyme, it was in her fifth collection, Distant Mandate (2017), that Mlinko achieved her mature style. Using received forms to serve diverse ends – war poems, love poems, reimagined Greek Myths – she allowed metre and rhyme to carry her between registers, even between worlds. The fluency of Distant Mandate, its wit and pathos, must have been hard won. Venice, her new collection (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2022) only confirms that achievement.

Mlinko is a comic poet, trying, not wholly successfully, to hide her feelings. Her poems bristle with erudition and wordplay. Her rhymes can be funny – ‘A girl puked on the tour bus / on the switchback up Vesuvius’ (‘Chimera’) – or sophisticated: ‘primogeniture’ rhymed with ‘found her’, ‘parties’ with ‘nonsignatories’. She can be difficult to the point of obscurity, swooping down on an everyday detail from the heights of gorgeous elaboration. Or she can be painfully terse:  
A ship of cows, en route
from Uruguay to Syria, sank
that December near Beirut  
(‘Possible Sea Breeze Collision in the Evening Hours’)

Mlinko combines virtuosity – she is fond of villanelles – with quirky modernity to ...


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