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This review is taken from PN Review 29, Volume 9 Number 3, January - February 1983.

UPROOTING THE DAM OF HISTORY Adriano Spatola, Various Devices (Red Hill) $3.00

Adriano Spatola's poems, says their author, reject the dichotomy between political engagement and disengagement. The reader's difficulty in deciphering this oracular formula is fortunately dispelled by the poems: they are games with rhetorical registers, a pulp of culture criticism and écriture. Spatola has a repertoire of several preferred rhetorics: the spell of the Symbolist, the analytic patterning of the concrete poet, the laxness of the Beat and the taut conceited argument of a Metaphysical. Lest this description seem too preposterous, consider the following stanza from 'Il poema Stalin', a title of provocatively calculated flippancy:

somewhere still the river the town remains written in gothic characters between finger-marks of gall spurts of bile spiders ornately nailed the ends of the legs bent at right angles don't stand there adding things up by then they were everywhere even history sometimes tells the truth

One notes that Spatola's poems are built up of short sections and long lines. Both serve to render more palatable the cacaphonic juxtapositions: the long lines are rhetorically soothing, Whitmanesque and all-engulfing, while the short sections seduce one with the prospect of an imminent break. Spatola exploits the fact that the stream of media consciousness bears the flotsam of various tones: thus the passage quoted moves from Symbolist portent (line 1) through Germanic symbolism to the Germanically visceral (line 2), to grotesque constructivism (line 3) and shoulder shrugging (line 4) and ends with a slogan stood half-heartedly on its head (line 5). The mixture ...

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