Review: Up to Speed

Up to Speed
Up to Speed by Rae Armantrout
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is the second time I’ve read this collection, the first being in grad school five years back. It contains some moments of beauty scattered among the poems. From “The Fit:” “In a coming-of-age story/each dream/produces me://an ignorance/on the point of revelation.” Similarly in “Write Home,” she pens “In order to write/you must fall in love//with your own thought/every time.” I enjoy these rare moments and wish entire poems communicated as well to me. Like in the cited examples, her words about words and writing ring very true and clear. “‘When size really counts,’/the billboard says//showing the product/tiny,//in one corner,//so we need to search for it./Come find me.//I stand/behind these words.” [from “Almost”].

Overall I found the poems too vague. Pages would go by without an image that spoke to me. An early poem, “Afterlife,” colored my reading: “He always said my poems were lonely, as if each thing (word, person) stood still, waiting for meaning.” I wish I hadn’t found this an accurate description of the entire collection for me.

I must call out two geek moments for me that I loved: [From “Next Generations”] “But, on ‘Star Trek,’ we aren’t the Borg,/the aggressive conglomerate,/each member part humanoid, part/machine, bent on assimilating/foreign cultures. In fact,/we destroy their ship,/night after night,/in preparation for sleep.” [and from the prose-poem “As One”] “After months apart, my friend invites me to meet her at a tourist spot in the town where we both used to live. We sit at a table in the sun, behind a mariachi band, and speak rapidly, as if trying to ‘catch up.’ She says that what scientists are learning about time suggests it may be possible to see into the future. I agree by mangling quotes from Godel and Hawking. ‘If the entire universe is spinning–and why not?–time may be circular.’ We interrupt each other frequently, as if excited, though, in fact, we have had this conversation several times before.”

[Check out my other reviews here.]


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