A review of

Virga

by Scott Zieher

Central question: Can rain be a metaphor of city life?
Format: 96 pp., paperback; Size: 5” x 8”; Price: $15.00; Publisher: Emergency Press; Editors: Bryan Tomoasovich and Jayson Iwen; Book designer: Jason Gitlin; Cover illustration: Jeff LaDouceur; Typeface: Plantin; Number of sections to Virga: Thirteen; Author composed poem from: “a collage of snapshots”; According to author, book attempts to capture: “the admittedly countless, formless, chaotic, multifarious faces seen and heard while strolling through New York City with wide-open eyes and ears.” Antique definition of “virga”: Penis; Representative sentence: “Boston is an old copper sink.”

Today, luggage underwrites our prevailing metaphor for dealing with poetry: critics and readers, weaned on the lyric, “unpack” poems which are supposed to be compact, manageable, and crammed to a bulge with meaning. Imagining poetry as a bag of meaning has undoubtedly contributed to the low profile kept by the contemporary long poem: difficult to write, too lengthy for casual memorization, pedagogically impractical to “unpack.” Lingering over a lyric is one thing, but several pages of a long poem can tire even the stouthearted. Nevertheless, the unwieldy long poem has a special attraction for poets, readers, and critics alike: it is an exercise in the sort of grand imagining reserved for novels and the best drama; also, long poems test the sustainability of a poet’s range and technique by requiring a poet render sequence as well as feeling. Regarded as an expression of established talent, young poets do not usually cut their teeth in the long poem genre (Yeats did). Scott Zieher’s long poem, Virga, is then doubly striking: both a compelling long poem and an exciting first volume of poetry.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Milton L. Welch

Milton L. Welch is a graduate student in the job market.

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