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Portrait in a Spoon

by James Cummins

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By turns comic and poignant, the poems in Portrait in a Spoon explore the uses and abuses of language as it intersects the uses and abuses of power. Taking George Eliot's observation that even Milton, looking at himself in a spoon, would have to "submit to have the facial angle of a bumpkin," James Cummins investigates the question of identity-the illusions we sustain, the passions we conceal, and the stories that surround both. In his previous collection, The Whole Truth, Cummins rewrote to absurd and magisterial ends the Perry Mason saga. In this much-awaited second volume of poems, he again trains his eye on culture-high and low, popular and elite-to explore and explode the myths and mythos of making. He finds the spoon that encloses and discloses, like John Ashbery's mirror, distorts as it explains. It has its analogue in the closed forms that he masterfully employs here: the epigram, sonnet, villanelle, and sestina. Through them he informs, measures, and sustains cascades of deep (and sometimes menacing) feeling.… (more)
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By turns comic and poignant, the poems in Portrait in a Spoon explore the uses and abuses of language as it intersects the uses and abuses of power. Taking George Eliot's observation that even Milton, looking at himself in a spoon, would have to "submit to have the facial angle of a bumpkin," James Cummins investigates the question of identity-the illusions we sustain, the passions we conceal, and the stories that surround both. In his previous collection, The Whole Truth, Cummins rewrote to absurd and magisterial ends the Perry Mason saga. In this much-awaited second volume of poems, he again trains his eye on culture-high and low, popular and elite-to explore and explode the myths and mythos of making. He finds the spoon that encloses and discloses, like John Ashbery's mirror, distorts as it explains. It has its analogue in the closed forms that he masterfully employs here: the epigram, sonnet, villanelle, and sestina. Through them he informs, measures, and sustains cascades of deep (and sometimes menacing) feeling.

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