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A Saturday Night at the Flying Dog by Marcia Southwick Oberlin College Press (Field Poetry Series), 1999, 61 pp., $13.95 A Saturday Night at the Flying Dog, winner of the 1998 Field Poetry Prize, is a quantum leap into a universe not found in Southwick's first two books, The Night Won't Save Us and Why the River Disappears. The poems in this new book do not begin and end with straightforward narratives or hinge on the turn of a briUiant image. They do not gather their energy solely from the author and her inner reflections. These poems attempt to confront and immerse us in the contradictions of a society sinking from the weight of rampant materialism and consumerism . Southwick succeeds admirably in describing the chaos and emptiness of such a Ufe. She sees the absurdity in the pursuit of "things" for fulfillment and salvation. What will save us, she believes, is to step back and strip our lives down to the essentials. In the opening poem, "Augery," for example, Southwick sees the future as cast "in a teacup, a pair of Nikes, and dust on a windowsiU/. . . in a tire's skid marks,/on the blade of a barber's shears." The poem is telling us that we wül lose any real chance for a meaningful life if it is based on shopping for "satellite dishes,/burglar alarms and new siding." In late-twentieth-century capitalist America, the consumer becomes the consumed. We are slaves to our dreams of things that in the end can't offer us anything better than a planned-obsolescent salvation—no matter how much we believe in them. AU our striving for the material faUs to outstrip death. "God plays hardball," writes Southwick. Dark though they often are, these poems are also humorous. Southwick declares, "I want my poems to be less Marcia-centric, so I'll write/ about Star Trek's Seska, the undercover Cardassian spy." But as an alien spy she takes on the disguise of Barbie, (herseU inhuman, in a plastic body alien to women). Though the reader wUl laugh, these poems are harsh commentaries on how we have trivialized our ambitions and lost sight of anything more important than perfecting a golf stroke or winning a sweepstakes. What can we do to reassert ourselves ? In the poem "In the Winter of Our Discontent & Other Seasons," Southwick advises the reader ". . . go outside and breathe in the greenery. Ifs a nice evening/with ground squirrels & blueberries/. . . Ifs a perfect night for tadpoles to nestle in the mud. Or/for getting sucked through a wormhole in the Gamma Quadrant ." Underlying this and many of the other poems is a Thoreauvian love of nature and simpUcity, a desire to find out whafs behind the empty, ephemeral deluge of things. What does the poet find there? That whether or not Ufe has meaning, one can find meaning in Uving, though that meaning may come at a cost. In the poem "Stone Worship," Southwick writes, "I could have spent an entire lifetime laughing in despair/ but instead I worshipped a black stone." This is not a despairing book, but it is filled with warnings. So what is the fate of poetry in a materiaUstic age Uke this one? In "A Portrait of Larry with Trogons," The Missouri Review · 221 an elegy for her late ex-husband, the poet Larry Levis, Southwick writes, "It's also difficult to find the exact right words for poetry/when they're camouflaged against the background of speech,/newspapers, and TV. If you were to see the trogon/against a white wall, you'd be dazzled by its brilliance." It's easy to see W.C. Williams' red wheelbarrow here: let the image speak for itseU, bring us back to the real world. Marcia Southwick accomplishes this in poem after poem as she leads us out of materialistic chaos and into our essential lives. (WB) Reviews by: Brett Rogers, Jean Braithwaite , John Tait, Tina Hall, Steve Yarbrough , Marta Boswell, Nancy Sherrod, Kris Somerville, Hoa Ngo, Pam Johnston, Katie Delay and Walter Bargen I G/^rfc^T/*^; v* APE T-Of TrtE ZoO »F a giTc* ulHii 222 · The Missouri...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 221-222
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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