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This review is taken from PN Review 132, Volume 26 Number 4, March - April 2000.

DAVID BERMAN, Actual Air (Open City Books) $12.95

Ominously, the dust jackets to new books by David Berman and Alan Michael Parker both refer to their authors' rock and roll connections. Berman fronts a group called 'The Silver Jews' (3 CDs, well received, unheard by me) and Parker takes his subject from the Dylan lyric, 'the pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handle.' Fortunately, both books indicate that while rock influences some contemporary (generally male) American poets, that influence is not stylistically direct; no writer, let alone these two skilled poets, copies the crunchingly brutal, tonal and emotional minimalism of bands like 'Limp Bizkit' or 'Korn'. Instead, poets such as Berman and Parker take from rock's history a sensibility and a stance, one which laces '60s clever-boy irony and word play (Dylan is obviously the avatar here but don't forget John Lennon's seminal There's A Spaniard in the Works ) with a bit of surrealism and deadpan apocalyptic foreboding.

If Parker's The Vandals was music it would be a concept album: thirty-seven poems, each consisting of between six and eight stanzas of unrhymed couplets with lines of varying length, featuring the eponymous Vandals rampaging through them. The Vandals aren't the real Vandals (Germanic tribe, fl. 400) and since Parker frequently reminds us that his Vandals exist only in poems they might be called deconstructionists who've gotten out of hand. 'Appearances, The Vandals Know' begins

Are always what they seem. It's another poem,
Another fall from grace, the vandals

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