Anna Moschovakis
Turtle Point Press ($16.95)

by Jason Ranon Uri Rotstein

The title of Anna Moschovakis's debut collection is cause enough to stop and consider. I Have Not Been Able to Get Through to Everyone may stand as one of poetry's best book titles of 2006. It immediately ushers in a poet of sharp irony, humble yet hazardous of limitations. Moschovakis is a poet not to be taken lightly and one not easy to digest. While she seems dispossessing, she gustily describes herself as a poet whose "biographer listens at the window." The thought must be sentimental folly, for Moschovakis's poetry does not demand us merely to listen to her poetry but to take a stand.

I Have Not Been Able to Get Through to Everyone is a book with no small agenda. The poems are a series of long sequences that can at times barely maintain a word to a line. In these poems, Moschovakis questions authority— especially the authority that language portends— and performs a sort of grammatology, renovating and questioning the many associations that naturally seem to inhere. The first poem of the collection concludes with these words, mapping her territory:

I don't remember my grammar
rules. I don't think English is very good
for a certain kind of inventioning. I gather
some readers don't like being
confronted with the language in every word.
I want to be a word. I would be abstract
with an inscrutable ending.

As one can see already from this first venture, her method is not psychological or interior but resolutely philosophical—she wants her poetry, and poetry in general, to ask "epistemological questions." She even imagines herself stalking around in the "Platonic cave." As she says, in the sequence of poems entitled "Preparations," where she seems to state an individual ars poetica, "Because Plato felt modern that day / he adopted ironic distance."

Leaving irony aside, the sequence "The Match," is a six-day journey in poetry ostensibly recorded at the rate of "one-poem per day," an exercise that does produce some standout verse. As in "Day 4":

Abstinence can actually alter your desires
or make them disappear.
The person you wanted to consume
becomes something you wear around your neck
or taste gingerly on your knees
leave enough for everyone

Where many of Moschovakis's poems talk at you, this poem conveys a distinct and shocking mood. This is the best of what the poet has to offer. Most of the time, she finds herself narrowly trying to skirt cliché, a challenge that seems troublesome for her to bear: "A view of sunlight filtering through trees can seem corny or kitsch." Still, her odd comparisons and catalogue of coincidences can at times be compelling, and her method produces an interesting first venture in speculative poetry, one that holds real promise for the future.

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Rain Taxi Online Edition, Winter 2006-2007 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2006-2007