Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fort Gorgeous by Angela Vogel

The National Poetry Review Press, 2011. You'll find my favorite poetry books anywhere but in my hand. Why, you ask? Because my favorite poetry books make me want to write a poem, and when that desire strikes, darn it, you have no choice but to act. Every time I've picked up Fort Gorgeous by Angela Vogel--whether settling in to read it cover to cover, or taking a quick peek at a random poem when I'm supposed to be cutting cauliflower--I have been sent to that place. Yes, that place. The one where poems come from, the elusive state we try to evoke at 10:00 pm when the house is finally silent. Thank you, Fort Gorgeous, for putting a spell on me.

What I admire about Angela Vogel's poems is the way that they welcome me as a reader, with a refreshingly frank diction, and images that make me remember why I love images so much. The poems of Fort Gorgeous are replete with flora and fauna, but not in a decorative sense. Instead, the gardens and forests of this book are active champions of their own destinies, perhaps even a bit predatory. Vogel's sense of humor emboldens these poems (I mean, look at the titles! "We'll Go for the Juggler," or "GPS: A Fairytale"), but it's not a slackerish or empty kind of humor. These poems deploy the most subtle and compelling social critiques, poking fun in the process.

Fort Gorgeous should be required reading for anyone grappling with lineation, as Vogel's work exhibits such mastery of the break and turn. "Jubilee Year" begins, "The only thing left is to hang / our hat on regret's haberdasherie," but as readers we want to keep our hats on, not hang them up. This book doesn't belong on a shelf. It belongs in your hand, and then wherever you set it down when it works its bright magic on you.

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