Geoffrey G. O'Brien
O'Brien's first book, The Guns and Flags Project, was
published by the University of California Press in 2002. His
work has appeared in many journals, including the American
Poetry Review, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly,
Faucheuse, Volt and ZYZZYVA. In the Fall of 2003,
O'Brien will be the Holloway Lecturer in Poetry at the
University of California at Berkeley.
This book's uncannily timely title conceals "An Unusual
Optimism," "Reverent Estimations," "A Soldier's Uniform" and 36
other mostly stanza-less free-verse firearms and colors. Not to
be confused with the poet, critic and Library of America editor
without the "G.," O' Brien made the cover of the American
Poetry Review last year, but here hides his visage and
shows us "the thinking loins, a catenation merging with the
outline of the body first light against the hurt side of the
city," until, finally, "the French came, and they killed us.
...They killed us and kept killing us until we spread out some
legacy in a red-and-white feuilleton of snow."
Writing in the meditative-aestheticist tradition of Stevens,
Ashbery, and the Language Poets, O'Brien presents lyrics of
incomparable nuance and density in his first book. His poems
amount to an artistic counteroffensive against the deadening
effects of work ("the road down the middle of you") and politics
("the nation blowing in wind vexed by a flag"). In place of
these distractions, O'Brien meditates on transitional moments,
especially in the weather and atmosphere, where "all objects are
about to be replaced." In O'Brien's richly textured world,
creation and de-creation occur simultaneously. For example, in
the moments of twilight following sunset, "A is everything and B
is everything leaving." Similarly, "the snow was the future
perfect of snow." O'Brien's poetry is demanding but rewarding,
transporting the reader to "the country the city used to be."
Highly recommended for all larger collections. Daniel L.
Guillory, Millikin Univ., Decatur, Illinois..
". . .
O'Brien creates incredibly detailed and dream-like narratives
that skate along the borders . . .
Memphis Commercial Appeal, 4/14/ 2002