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Reviews 373 The Woman in Red. By Cynthia Hogue. (Boise, Idaho: Ahsahta Press at Boise State University, 1989. 51 pages, $4.95.) GoingHomeAway Indian. By Leo Romero. (Boise, Idaho: Ahsahta Press at Boise State University, 1990. 103 pages, $4.95.) These two recent publications by Ahsahta Press could not be more differ­ ent, which I mean as a tribute to the publisher. Fortunately, clone poetry (or what Donald Hall has dubbed “The McPoem”) is not (yet) universally sought. Cynthia Hogue’s poems are rooted not in place so much as in the interior spaces where relationships have been. While small-town America and the family tribe figure in many of these poems, they also evoke a universalized place where what is significant is what has been lost there and what may perhaps be re­ trieved. In the attempt to make tangible the ineffable, Hogue’swork is reminis­ cent of Tess Gallagher’s best poetry, in which psychological states are deftly dramatized. Hogue’s “Of Winter The Picture” quite effectively conjures the distance between speaker and lost lover. Coming across a picture taken by the lover—of fuscia sky behind hills—the speaker resurrects another scene about which the ex-lover knew nothing, a futile search into twilight for her wounded collie, which brings her back full circle to the same sky and the picture: “I trace the trees—their winter branches/fretting a skein of clouds/around the sun—/and still the heart/of whatever between us/that lies always undone.” The pitfalls of charting such territory are numerous, and Hogue’s scenes elsewhere blur into vagueness, as in “Little Nothings”which attempts to wrench its sense from the cloud of uncertainty the poem proposes: “The unspeaking scent./ The sense that nothing can say.”While these veerings into abstraction sometimes work, they can also seem an easy escape, a pseudo-conclusion for poems whose many directions lack a central momentum. There is stylistic variety in The Woman in Red, though the versatility is more experimental than accomplished. In her introduction to Hogue’swork, Pamela Stuart praises the rough and mercurial voice, “even as it stumbles and twists,” and concludes: “This book makes a big dent and no few scratches in the toosmooth familiar surfaces of current American poetry.” And for those readers habituated to a flawless hum, these poems will indeed seem to tear at the fabric of their own telling, appearing at once self-conscious and unpremeditated, precious and rough. In stark contrast to the collage of sensibility of Woman in Red, Leo Romero’s Going Home Away Indian is flat, minimalistic, and distinctly southwestern in subject, character and voice. These poems are speakings—monologues and dialogues and pieces of stories woven out of remnant myths and absurd fears, hopes and realities. The landscape is Godot-like, where both the dead and living mingle in bars, roam the desert, find boredom; but the main characters also 374 WesternAmerican Literature sparkle with Warholian glamor. There is Marilyn Monroe Indian (“Luscious cactus/fruit lips”) and Skeleton Indian who knows how to dress. Both are envied, desirable and dead. Romero’s humor, though sardonic, is always lightly dealt. What keeps these poems from sliding into mere parody and caricature is Romero’s impeccable ear. The short, groping lines utterly capture the barely articulate lives that ultimately mean what they say, eloquently. Romero is a master of rhythm. Note the effective deadpan opening of “Slow Poke Indian”: Slow Poke Indian that’swhat he calls himself If he had been in the olden times he says he would have been one dead Indian mighty quick But these are modern times I don’t worry much about being slow in this day and time he says After all what’s an Indian got but time . . . There is one speaker in Going Home Away Indian who gets his head blown off again and again, poem after poem, dream after dream. It’s as ifwe are witness­ ing the frozen frames of a cartoon. This sort of repetition is funny and absurd, but it also brings home a point about our culture of replay, about our exposure and immunity to images that wash over us until dream...


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pp. 373-374
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