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This review is taken from PN Review 204, Volume 38 Number 4, March - April 2012.

How to Live? What to Do? peter gizzi, Threshold Songs (Wesleyan University Press) £14.65

Throughout his new collection, Threshold Songs, Peter Gizzi figures mourning as an address to the air, which might be nothing, or a voice, or a song, or a ghost, or just air. 'There is a spike / in the air', begins the first poem:

a distant thrum
you call singing
and how many nights
this giganto, torn
tuned, I wonder if
you hear me
I mean I talk
to myself through you
hectoring air...

Since the publication of The Outernationale (2007), Gizzi has lost his mother, his brother, and one of his closest friends, all of whom are the dedicatees of Threshold Songs. Rather than the impressionistic chronicles of these losses one might expect, these poems constitute an exploratory sounding of the poetic voice from a condition 'beside oneself'. Partaking of an open-hearted, wild lyricism, these poems balance concentrated bursts of elegy with uncommon clarity of perception and resolute humorousness. They project themselves into and from a liminal (cf.limen) lyric nether-space, where 'grief is an undersong' and 'a towering absence vibrating air'. Pitched into the no-man's-land dividing the living and the dead, they work through what it means 'to understand / oneself. With- / out oneself. / How to live. / What to do.' These last two sentences, which round off the collection, are the title of a Wallace Stevens poem. But - strange pairing - they also come from Judith Butler, who writes in ...


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