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This review is taken from PN Review 123, Volume 25 Number 1, September - October 1998.

MORTALITY OF LANGUAGE ANNA RABINOWITZ, At the Site of Inside Out (University of Massachusetts Press) $10.95

Anna Rabinowitz's At the Site of Inside Out is significant because of what the poet does with an impressive array of forms: not traditionalist, Rabinowitz reinvigorates forms as she reinvents them. Among the many forms in the book are a sestina punctuated only by caseuras (with the teleutions 'border', 'order', 'land', 'borderland', 'or', and 'board'); a canzone; a poem in terza rima, 'Descent', which is about Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase; two acrostics (spelling ANAPHORA in 'Again and Once Again and...' and CAVEAT EMPTOR KODACOLOR FADES in 'Camera Work'); a double acrostic in which the first and last letters of each line spell DOPPELGANGER; an alliterative abecedarius; a poem in sapphics; two prose poems; and poems in ingenious invented forms.

If Rabinowitz contented herself only with formal pyrotechnics, her work would possess a brilliant surface but no more (as Charles Wright has said, style alone is 'the spider web without the spider - it glitters and catches but doesn't kill'). Human mortality and the mortality of language occupy this poet, especially in her elegies for her mother, father, and friends. Thus, the question 'what language / repairs this grammar of relic stumbling to your shore' ('Linoleum Gardens') acquires a particular urgency for a poet so well-tuned to the possibilities and limitations of language.

Also moving is the fourteen page sequence 'Dislocations', in which Rabinowitz attempts to learn and reclaim her eastern European heritage by traveling from New York City to Leningrad, Moscow, Prague, Cracow, Auschwitz, ...


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