Rohrer won the National Poetry Series 10 years ago with A Hummock in the Malookas; this fourth book of poetry follows hard on the heels of Nice Hat. Thanks, his comic-verse collaboration with Joshua Beckman. Though it includes serious ecological themes (notably in "Hone Quarry," a series of 56-syllable stanzas about a camping trip), this wary, slippery new volume's dominant notes are deadpan humor and bleak nonstop irony. "No one watches over us unless our uncles/ are flying planes," Rohrer warns in "I Hail from the Bottom of the Sea, the Land of Eternal Darkness." Another long poem, "MK Ultra" (named for the CIA's infamous LSD tests), shows a "patron saint of corridors" chowing down on "the most/ gorgonzola he'd ever eaten." If Rohrer sometimes seems (like James Tate) out to entertain, he also (like Tate) tries to learn from Eastern Europeans, whose juxtapositions poked fun at the absence of God, or described life inside a police state. On occasion Rohrer captures not just their humor but their urgency. Much of the volume, however, ends up so committed to its self-conscious stance that the poems have time for little else: with lines like "I want to be an interesting story/ none of you really remembers," they're less Tomasz Salamun than David Letterman.
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Matthew Rohrer was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and grew up in Oklahoma. He attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop, University College Dublin, and the University of Michigan, where he won the Avery Hopwood Award for poetry. His first book, A Hummock in the Malookas, was a winner of the National Poetry Series and chosen as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 1995. Mary Oliver called his work beautiful and disquieting," and Harvard Review notes that his poems are "everywhere marked by freshness and originality." He has appeared on NPR's All Things Considered - The Book Show, and is a poetry editor of Fence.