Saturday, June 19, 2010

Carter Monroe's THE NEW LOST BLUES

I just finished reading Carter Monroe's The New Lost Blues: Selected Poems 1999-2005, and it's splendid. It's a book well known in the small-press community but should be even more widely known and, one hopes, headed for a second printing. The influence of the Beats and the Black Mountain School is here, but that's not saying much as Monroe has obviously absorbed that influence and moved on to forge his own style. Many poems in the early part of the book are narrative in different ways, personal but never insular, and all guided by a firm but flexible, funny but also often coldly incisive voice.

These poems represent much from the author's world in North Carolina and elsewhere but just as much about the U.S. in the early 21st century. Other poems are more palpably jazz-influenced, and Monroe clearly knows the music and musicians there, and is no dabbler. A third kind of poem is shorter, more experimental, such as the Ra Postcards. Through it all runs a disciplined but highly inventive maturity, always a strong voice, a keen eye for detail, falsehood, self-deception, absurdity, and despair, and always a fine sense of form and line. This really is a substantial achievement, a book for readers of poetry to savor, and a book for poets to learn from and, if they're not careful, envy.

The New Lost Blues Selected Poems 1999-2005
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