Review #82: ‘To Anacreon in Heaven and Other Poems’ by Graham Foust

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  • COLDFRONT RATING: four
  • PUBLISHED BY: Flood Editions, 2013
  • REVIEW BY: Timothy Liu

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This book is made entirely out of monostich sentences, some poems ranging from a single line (“Sonnet”: “I sing as if I’m eating what I’m singing from a knife.”) or two (“Ars Poetica”: “Turn your face away and break a first-floor window. / Turn back and throw its pieces through your open one above.”) to the fifty-page title poem (though all the poems begin halfway down the page which allows for a lot of white space between pages in a signature Quemadura design, thank you Jeff Clark). This book at times is mildly funny, whether aping song lyrics (“You can hurry love and you do.”), turning aphorisms on their heads (“No time like the future save for most of it.”), and playfully parrying/parodying old heroes like Duncan (“Often I am permitted to return a few phone calls from a meadow.”) and Stevens (“Tell me, professor, if you know—what’s the sound of one grown man losing his shit in public?”) and indeed, when wrapping things up, Foust directly asks his imagined readers, “Exactly what have I been heaving past my lips to make you laugh?” I like Foust best when he eschews stand-up gestures (which pale in relation to real stand-up guys like, say, a Louis C K) in favor of more off-the-cuff cultural critiques like this: “The fanny packs and cameras really fucked with the Agnes Martins, but they were completely at home in the room of Philip Gustons, thus making me love Guston all the more.” This kind of attention to the things of this world and to how language confounds itself time and again is what makes me return to Foust’s masterful poems from book to book.

Disclosures: Foust demonstrates quite a command not only over sentences but the use of apostrophe (“S’all evil” “Time’ll tear” “The water’d be”) as well as anaphora (“I tend to . . .” “Oh say . . .” “Example . . .” “Far be it . . .”). Such rhetorical flourishes laced throughout magnify the pleasure of the whole.

Favorites: All of the sentences quoted above and a few more of the following: “There’s a staggering happiness to standing in the yard and wearing someone else’s clothes, the very same happiness to sitting in the bath and taking someone else’s pills.” or “My mother works in a big-box bookstore in a strip mall in the town where I grew up, which means I’m regularly informed when someone with whom I went to high school buys a sexy magazine.” and “You can finally write that letter—‘Dear Mark Rothko: How few light bulbs does it take to change a picture?’”

Read Foust at Jubilat.