January 5, 2009

Review by Maureen Alsop

by Mark Salerno

Salt Publishing
P.O. Box 937
Great Wilbraham
Cambridge PDO
CB21 5JX United Kingdom
ISBN: 9787774 578737
56 pp., $14.95

Odalisque is the book to be read on a rainy night with a good bottle of Shiraz after being swept into the flickering black and white images of a classic noir film and thus overcome by a subdued appreciation for windy alleyways and femme fatales. In the poem “Gaze” Salerno writes: “…because my subject is directional it includes/ desire and attendant clatter beating on someone’s door/ all day and all night beside the Cahuenga newsstand… “(21). These lines exemplify the urgency and mood of the collection.

Odalisque is eloquence and earth, possessed by syntax without beginning or end. The poem “It Was Not,” like many of the poems in the collection, reads as one long sentence, and mid poem Salerno writes: “she was correct to be the air in someone’s lungs/but how far out of Kingstown did you expect to get/with just panty hose and a cinderblock way of thinking…” And by the poem’s end, “it might as well have snowed could have snowed did snow/ if I kissed your footsteps as I have scrupled to aver” (24). Salerno’s poetry moves as if the grammatical structure cannot be anchored by punctuation, thus compelling the language to drift from convention.

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