Cinema Vernacular is a stunning new collection of poetry by Peter Nickowitz. Using forms like screenplays and even films in his poetics, Cinema Vernacular is porous, deft, concerned with our relationship to the intangible and how desire filters through image and text. Mark Doty writes, "Ironic and vulnerable, full of longing but savvily independent, the speaker in Nickowitz's poems is a recognizable, alert, 21st century citizen, sustained and flummoxed by desire." These poems mark, with recognizable pathos and sharp turns of hilarity, the arrival of a major voice.

 

 

Whether poems disguised as screenplays, or screenplays disguised as poems, Cinema Vernacular is characteristically elegant and full of surprises. "What's the difference between life and the movies?" Peter Nickowitz early on asks himself. Although his initial answer reads cooly deflective—"My goal...never to know"—Nickowitz, sometimes comically, other times terrifyingly, does know, which is why the family and sexual dramas of this book prove so propulsive, beguiling, and unforgettable.

 

      —Robert Polito

 

Cinema—with its jump cuts, flashes of image, and potent juxtapositions—feels like a natural medium for representing urban life, and Peter Nickowitz makes fine use of this in Cinema Vernacular, writing a screenplay of love and eros in two great cities: Paris with its untarnishable romance and a New York so accurately observed that our speaker even collages accounts of his therapy sessions. Ironic and vulnerable, full of longing but savvily independent, the speaker in Nickowitz's poems is a recognizable, alert, 21st century citizen, sustained and flummoxed by desire.  

 

      —Mark Doty

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Rhetoric and Sexuality explores the poetry of Hart Crane, Elizabeth Bishop, and James Merrill. Nickowitz combines a rhetorical and thematic interpretation, employing close readings and the critical lens of Freudian and Kleinian psychoanalysis, to illustrate an additional way to read American poetry. He argues that the extent to which homosexual desire is problematic for these poets compels them to formulate new ways of expressing issues of homosexuality for which they have no available words. Rhetoric and Sexuality shows that the logic of identity in twentieth-century American poetry becomes a question of rhetoric.

 

 

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