Look We Have Coming to Dover!

Robert Potts writes:

It will be interesting to see whether, in future poems, he pushes his disorientations of language further, or instead chooses to cultivate the well-behaved, familiar style in which the least interesting poems are written. The pressure to fit in, which drives much of the drama of this book, is an aesthetic problem as well as a social one. Beneath the exuberance and charm of the collection there are fierce undercurrents that reviewers have tended to ignore. The celebratory communal pieces – especially ‘All We Smiley Blacks!’ – hide sly gestures at conflict and difficulty beneath their glossy surface. The Guantánamo-tinged, e.e. cummings-style poem ‘X’ is an affecting description of the racist logic of the state. And Nagra’s identically titled parody of Seamus Heaney’s ‘Digging’ – perhaps a de rigueur gesture for a younger poet joining a particular club – is unsettling in its refusal of the original poem’s sentimentality and sense of lineage.

(LRB 21 June 2007)

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