Part Baudelairian flaneur, an Arcadian shepherd, the speaker in John Isles' brave new "Inverse Sky" encounters a fragmented history. It is nineteenth-century California, and the missions are still burning after the Americans establish the Bear Flag Republic; it is the twenty-first century, and the miners of '49 are relegated to a mural in an arcade. Both a loner and a lover, Isles' pilgrim-poet takes us on a journey where Native Americans are 'missing persons' outside a diorama of their ancestors, then sets us adrift in settings ranging from film noir to the clear-cut hills of modern-day California landscapes, under siege but not defeated."Inverse Sky" evokes the paradigm of a shocked and disbelieving child dealing with a broken promise, yet the poems carry within themselves the knowledge that promises will be kept. The only response to broken promises is 'to come undone / to come and go in a single breath.' But this is a beginning as well as an end. Each poem becomes a new world - for if there is anything on earth worth loving, it is something made with the world as it has been handed down to us. "Inverse Sky" is an insistent effort to 'love the things not loving back.'
John Isles is the author of Ark (IOWA, 2003) and coeditor of the Baltics section of New European Poets. He received an award from the Los Angeles Review in 2004 and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2005. His poems have appeared in such journals as American Letters & Commentary, the Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, and Pleiades. He lives with his wife and son in Alameda, California.
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