Wednesday, January 2, 2008

review of Rhode Island Notebook in Library Journal

Gudding, Gabriel. Rhode Island Notebook. Dalkey Archive. 2007. c.456p.
ISBN 978-1-56478-479-7. pap. $12.50. POETRY

Once the source of national identity and possibility that inspired
Walt Whitman and Jack Kerouac, the American road has become
domesticated, even routine. But Gudding's latest book (after his
inventive and irreverent 2002 debut, A Defense of Poetry) repurposes
the linear progression of highway signs, roadkill, and fast-food
joints into a medium for multivalent self-discovery. "When driving
long distances a person enters a kind of snakedance psychosis," he
writes, and this journal-in-verse, composed during 26 round trips he
took between Illinois and Rhode Island—visiting his beloved young
daughter and estranged spouse—brims with spontaneous meditations
that range from scatological to eschatological, personal to political,
comedic (e.g., "Billboards/ are the palm trees of Indiana") to
heartbreaking (e.g., "Clio was so sad/ her hair & face small/ as if
she'd swallowed herself"). Omnidirectional in its attentions, the book
nevertheless attains fugal coherence through repeated themes and
rhetorical structures. It's a long, often wild, and sometimes
uncomfortable ride, but when the head and heart sharing the driving
are as imaginative as Gudding's, the road brings many surprises.

—Fred Muratori

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