Dead Ahead

Ben Doller's third book works with source material that includes the pirate narratives of Captain William Dampier, a seventeenth-century Englishman who circumnavigated the world three times, and the legend of the Widow Ching, a mysterious and prominent female pirate in eighteenth-century China. In this seafarer's narrative, the brown sails, peg legs, and one-eyed Willys share space with laser pointers, artificial turf, and scrambled egg whites. There are plenty of skillful turns of phrase and play here. For example, in an excerpt from the poem "On Vacation," Doller writes:

us sher

(to escort us to our seats, please, sitting on our afts)

use her

(& the interest we earned as we sat there)

ee ting

(the extraterrestrial)

ting ting


terrene tinge

(layers for the super scoops)

tinge terrene


Doller explores the idea of piracy and the melding of high and low language in this crafty, contemporary text, which questions what is owned, what can be taken, and what or who is empowered in the process.

This book review originally appeared in American Poets, Fall 2010, Issue 39.