Mark Irwin was born in Faribault, Minnesota and has lived throughout the United States and abroad in France and Italy. He is the author of four previous collections of poetry: The Halo of Desire, Against the Meanwhile, Quick, Now, Always (BOA Editions), and White City (BOA Editions). His poetry and essays have appeared widely in many literary journals. Among his literary awards are National Endowment for the Arts and Ohio Art Council Fellowships, two Pushcart Prizes, the James Wright Poetry Award and a Fulbright Fellowship to Romania. He lives with his family in Denver.
Irwin may not have garnered much attention with two previous volumes (Against the Meanwhile; The Halo of Desire), but this startling new work commands a wide audience. He raises well considered political questions: "Bucharest 1981" is a brilliant lyric about people met there: "Everyone in this poem/ is dead, except one girl, pouring light or water,/ and myself, reading very late at night." Nothing is quite as it seems in these complex poems, and yet Irwin's voice is free of obscurantist private symbols. "I am drawing light bulbs/ alongside skulls. I want to blur that distinction/ between the frivolous/ and the dead," he says in the long sequence, "Turbo-Descartes." Moreover, he succeeds, within 20 pages juxtaposing such disparate references as The Statue of Liberty, Jesus, a Xerox machine, Popeye, Marilyn Monroe, Simplicity Pattern #8392 and the movie Gone with the Wind, to form a tragicomic history of past and future. Although Irwin has learned from more experimental poets how to release sentences from their anticipated syntax, his intellect and the urgency of his words remain traditionally steadfast. (Apr.)