A review of

A Series Of Small Boxes

by Thomas Devaney

Central question: Are imagined distances greater than real ones?
Format: 68 pp., paperback; Price: $15.00; Size: 6" x 9"; Publisher: Fish Drum; Editor: Suzi Winson; Print run: 1,000; Book designer: Basia Grocholski; Typeface: Meta; Image featured on the cover: Abstract paintings of boxes by the publisher’s mother; Total number of poems in the book: 34; Number with dedications: 17; Activity about which the author appears to be conflicted: Miniature golf; Things Obi-Wan Kenobi valued late in life, according to a poem titled after him: “Comfortable shoes” and “a good haircut”; Representative line: “New Jersey is the greatest poem never written.”

In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud famously compares the structure of the unconscious to Rome’s many strata of buried ruins. In the opening lines of A Series of Small Boxes, Thomas Devaney invokes a Rome that’s equal parts real and remembered, actual and written. In an age when various political and religious figures promise to deliver truth in the guise of salvation, poetry may be better off working the gap between fact and the imaginary, albeit without making compassion and doubt subservient to fancy. “You don’t have to get abstract to see everyone’s beat-up badly. / It’s not the future it’s Lunchtime all around.” The modesty—here also defined to mean generous and encompassing—of Devaney’s poetry is an awareness of the slow, deliberate effort it takes to create a better world.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Alan Gilbert

Alan Gilbert is the author of Another Future: Poetry and Art in a Postmodern Twilight. He lives in Brooklyn.

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