Wednesday, August 23, 2006



A Panic that can still come upon me by Peter Gizzi
(Ugly Duckling Presse, 2006)

A panic that can still come upon me is a slim chapbook with the drawing of a sun setting and/or rising on its cover. Gizzi's books include PERPLUM AND OTHER POEMS 1987-92, and SOME VALUES OF LANGUAGE AND WEATHER. In an interview with Gizzi by Aaron Kunin in Rain Taxi, Gizzi explains, “If I’m not writing what’s there, (what he’s looking at) I’m writing what happens to me, what I receive at the moment of looking.” By this I think he means he writes a conditional poem, a poem made up of suppositions and statements. The book begins with the word "If" that heads its first line, "If today and today I am calling aloud." Thus the poem has instant immediacy. The reader is poised on the threshold of the poem. Gizzi further tells Kunin in his interview that he celebrates "if the conditional" because it allows for generative thought and doubt at the same time." In his chapbook, Gizzi's "if" sets up a series of conditions that serve as stage sets for the world of the poem, for his inner conditions as opposed to its exterior scenes of branch, pine boughs, bridges and water in the creek.

Gizzi's poem takes in the “leafy architecture” of the world, the meaning of the sun above our heads, the suppositions of reality, and the body of the poet in an effort to arrive at a sense of inner meaning. Successive suppositions exist in Gizzi's narrative of existence of the movement of the perceptive eye. His poetry is a series of pauses, a lament, and a way of looking backward and of treading water. The poem that makes up this chapbook has a lyric delicacy that makes the reader tread lightly through its shifting landscape as it balances objects like the book on the table, sky arching over nothing, a ship in deep water with the writer's mental perceptions, the flux of objects in the poet's world that add up to bodily perceptions, the trip of the poet's imagination. The chapbook, A panic that can still come upon me, is a welcome edition to his oeuvre.


Corinne Robins' latest poetry collection is TODAY'S MENU published this September by Marsh Hawk Press. She is an art critic as well as a poet, author of THE PLURALIST ERA: American Art 1968-81 and four previous poetry collections. She teaches art criticism at Pratt Institue, Brooklyn, NY.


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