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No Part of This Has Any Point
A Point Is That Which Has No
by Adam L. Dressler
The central purpose of this review, i.e., answering the question, “Should I read this book?” can be achieved with one word—“no.” This may seem rather pointed, but let me explain.
The dust jacket of Liz Waldner’s second book, “A Point Is That Which Has No Part,” promises, or at least intimates, that the contents is of high quality: it was published by the University of Iowa Press, and awarded the prestigious James Laughlin Award for 1999 by the judges Agha Shahid Ali, Lynn Emmanuel, and Marilyn Nelson. But I am baffled and saddened—baffened, if you will, by the acclaim this book has received.
The book opens with an epigram by Sir Thomas Browne:
Who would have expected a mathematical metaphor to open a book with such a title? Ms. Waldner’s hand must have painstakingly rifled the quotational universe to find this particular gem, so suited to the setting of her book. Or, perhaps this epigram, like so many of the words, themes, ideas, and structures of this book, was selected for no apparent reason, or—and this is what I believe—for no reason at all, other than the fact that it references mathematical terms. It does, however, serve as a caution not to proceed—a lasciate ogni speranza over the gate.
As I disregarded the
epigram’s warning and headed into the book proper, I found myself asking
other painful questions. Why, for example, does the book’s first section, Point,
consist of only one poem, “Accord”? Does it differ so greatly from the poems
of other sections to necessitate its independence? Let’s have a look at the