Edge and Fold, poems by Paul Hoover (Apogee Press)

There are poets who believe that language persists where everything else fades and disappears, and that within language lives a moral imperative. The poet writes consciously to create specific effects. And then, there are poets who believe that language creates the poet and reader in the moment he/she utters/reads, but that language doesn't persist and therefore speculation about its "moral" nature is beside the point. Paul Hoover's tastes (he is the editor of the Norton anthology Postmodern American Poetry) may favor the latter. But like all intriguing poets, his practice doesn't cling to doctrine and the effect of his poetry persists in the mind. "Edge and Fold" is a 49-part poem with sharp lines like these: "attention is a matter / of supervising shadows // all is arranged for the sake / of our gardens // there's a final logic / in everything that is // among such precisions / a blur is reassuring // at the edge of nature / a fold creates something // no statue or palace / at the center of the woods." This is brilliant, mysterious, insightful language, captivated and captivating. Stripped of personality (and much else), these poems work towards accumulating the shape of a mind speaking. There is also a shrewd mission underway, of tracing his manner of address back to past masters, such as Holderlin (Hoover translated Holderlin with Maxine Chernoff) for whom the ineffable existed to challenge the physical. There is a legacy here of digression and liberation or openness. The second poem, "The Reading," is an apt companion piece, full of fine distractions that interrupt our comprehension yet follow enjoyable vectors.