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This review is taken from PN Review 172, Volume 33 Number 2, November - December 2006.

THE SHADOW OF STEVENS ELIZABETH WILLIS , Meteoric Flowers (Wesleyan UP) $22.95
DAN CHIASSON , Natural History and other poems (Bloodaxe) £8.95
STEPHEN DUNN , The Insistence of Beauty (W.W. Norton) £8.99
PHILIP LEVINE , Stranger to Nothing ( Bloodaxe) £9.95

Wallace Stevens is coming. New Collected Poems, lovely weight to the pages, good colour, tasty price, by Monday the Tube will be full of commuters forsaking their Goblet of Fire for the Emperor of Ice Cream. Oh perfect world, but if we Brits don't get him it seems that three out of these four American cats prefer him. It appears that he's become the favourite flavour of this generation and these poets seem keen on the association.

Elizabeth Willis, assistant professor of English at Wesleyan University, combines Wallace Stevens's 'A poem is a meteor' with Erasmus Darwin's Botanic Garden of 1791 in Meteoric Flowers. If one were to take this framework too seriously, her prose poems would collapse under the weight of allusions. The poems combine a language of private relationships, descriptions of nature, and cur-rent culture in a series of semi-surreal juxtapositions: 'The devil's in shirtsleeves, talking with Vandals' (from 'Devil's Bush').

There is in the continual build-up of these sentences and images, a proffering but not a full revelation of a deeper gnostic under-standing. But this is a strength as there is also a direct attempt to make the language of her poetic voice confront a seam in contemporary culture that would appear antagonistic to her private, rural and delicate tone. Though there is no final clarity to the argument, there is clarity as to which side of the argument, and that combined with the song and the singing ...


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