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Kleinzahler’s poetry is, as ever, concerned with permeability: voices, places, the real and the dreamed, the present and the past, colliding and intersecting and spilling over into each other. Whether the voice embodied is that of ‘an adult male of late middle age, // about to weep among the avocados and citrus fruits / in a vast, overlit room next to a bosomy Cuban grandma’ as in ‘Whitney Houston’ or that of the title character in ‘Hootie Bill Do Polonius’ who is bidding ‘adios compadre // To a most galuptious scene Kid’, Kleinzahler locates and exhibits in his poetry the human heart at the core of lived experience. This is a poet searching for – and finding – a cadence capable of describing life as it is lived today.
Kleinzahler’s poetry is, as noted in the judges’ citation for the 2004 Griffin Poetry Prize (which he won for his collection The Strange Hours Travelers Keep), ‘ferociously on the move, between locations, between forms, between registers.’ The Hotel Oneira finds Kleinzahler at his shape-shifting, acrobatic best, unearthing the ‘moments of grace’ buried amongst the detritus of our hectic, modern lives.
Kleinzahler is a one-off, and this new book is as good as ever, with spiky portraits (and self-portraits) alongside the American landscapes that have become his speciality, moving easily and mysteriously between domestic close-ups of the weather and noodling riffs on the state of the modern world.
Ambitious, erudite, encyclopedic ... The Hotel Oneira confirms Kleinzahler once again as among the most delightful flowerings of American poetry in our times.
In his subject matter and his chosen forms, Kleinzahler keeps moving ... you fall in step with him for a spell, passing through an experience before you quite know what happened ... [He] wants to capture experiences live, before they are recorded and mediated. He is always aiming for the moment of potential when something is up for grabs. An impossible ambition perhaps but one that can produce thrillingly various results.
'Economical, jazz-tinged, plaintive, a little bit funny, a little bit rock 'n' roll ... Another incorrigibly Kleinzahler-ish collage of carefully measured snapshots, always on the move, always somehow simple, complex and cool at the same time.'
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