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Sunday September 24, 2017
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Matthew Thorburn

 

continued

seen some of his poems in journals over the years and have followed him as he moved to New York, got degrees, started a literary journal (Good Foot, one of the interesting places for young writers to publish these days), and started winning prizes. And now comes Subject to Change, his first collection of poems. It is a lush, extravagant book, one that resists any easy categories. It is filled with the energy of urgent composition (this poet really believes he should engage the themes of the ages), with genuine humor, and with formal confidence. Thorburn nods to Marcel Duchamp and Gertrude Stein (he walks through Chinatown with Stein, "camouflaged / in silver wig and blue sunglasses"), but he is just as likely to write sestinas or sonnets that play around with rhymes in ways that are both a bit silly and very smart at the same time. Just listen to the beginning of "At the Angle Tree with Katrina," a poem about a night out in London that mixes the absolutely contemporary in an old rhythmic stew:

An Anglo bistro. Sweat-soaked. Six-ish.
"Absolut?" Amstel Light. Midtown and then some,
and me just back from Michigan's sore thumb.
One of the city-slick? I wish. No, nix wish —


It comes almost as a shock, albeit a pleasant one, to realize somewhere near the end of the poem that this is a sonnet and that the rhymes are almost completely regular.

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