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I first encountered Dumanis at a reading just after "My Soviet Union"
was published. Immediately, I was struck by his unique sense of rhythm
and even more unique subject matter. His poetry is at once humorous and
sorrowful. His voice is very much his own. For lovers of Frank O'Hara
and Joseph Cornell, the synthesis is Michael Dumanis.
The speaker of the simultaneously funny and devastating poems in this remarkable first collection comes from a country that, like the Soviet Union, no longer exists, a place he treats with a mixture of nostalgia, disdain, and bewilderment as he strives to achieve a sense of order in his current disordered environment, a post-apocalyptic landscape with striking similarities to our own. He takes the reader through haunting and disjunctive childhood memories, on visits to Azerbaijan and West Des Moines, through the ravages of physical and spiritual illness, into and out of wars and ill-fated romantic escapades, as he carefully pieces together a complex narrative of self. This is a book of location and dislocation, intent and inaction, struggle and failure, restraint and mania, love and anger, savagery and healing, grief and merriment, elegy and ode. Technically, the poems - often litanies - are marked by syntactical variation, recurring imagery, paradoxical statement, cultural idioms, shifts between high and low diction, a carnivalesque sense of humor, and an elliptical approach to exposition. including Joseph Cornell, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Pol Pot, a vaudevillian, a movie extra, minor dictators, vagrants, ambigendered lovers, and a lighthouse keeper on an uninhabited island. from The Death of Elegy: Reluctant, I must onward, dearest wantword, fairest ragebird: I can no longer in the throatscratched marshland, nor do I find myself capable in the Cathedral of Learning, or any(for that matter)where in Pittsburgh. Have lugged too many bodies through its freightyards in my translucent slip. In my gauche veil, I thought I'd steel myself against despair, did not accomplish. The moon is black tonight, as if there is none. The moon tonight is either black, or stolen, and I do not possess the wherewithal to up-and-down, in search for it, on the funiculars. What I've become. An overcoat with hands, hands I would fail to feel if it were colder. ...]