Marvelous Things Overheard: Poems

Ange Mlinko is a poet and columnist for the Nation; her work has been compared with the conversational style of Frank O'Hara and praised for its "unique sense of humor and mystery." Her fourth collection, Marvelous Things Overheard, draws on her time at the American University of Beirut and her travels in Morocco, Greece and Cyprus, all conflict-ridden places of visual and cultural density. She invokes mythology and history with exacting and beautiful language. "Flashflood: Arethusa," which compares a hurricane with a Greek nymph, is shocking in its evocation of watery violence. "The vibration running through the ebbing afternoon/ Isn't unusual," Mlinko writes of the storm's beginning. "The wind is."

Throughout the collection, Mlinko uses the unfamiliar as a way to let us see the familiar anew, as in the very brief "Etna":

"She wakes at dawn. Eos has played some kind of trick:
She is covered in ash. As if she were in some old flick."
History itself becomes a way of commenting on how we see the past.

The entire collection is also a celebration of words, with titles like "Wingandecoia" and "Words Are the Reverse of Pain." Each poem reveals a mind that is imaginative, rigorous and cerebral at work, testing the limits of language. In the collection's final, hopeful lines, Mlinko writes:
"Coolly the bodies of experts
the professional committees,
hone their vocab to tweasers...
we life-forms are evolving
only toward more feeling."
--Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

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