Utopia Minus

Through poems that posit the constructed landscapes of American cities as their vantage points, Briante's second collection is a study of collapse and what gets built up again after the breakdown. Rachel Levitsky notes that Briante is a "detritus artist, a gleaner working in the banal of the contemporary world, molding the pieces she finds into vivid mosaics."

The sites of these poems are strip malls, chain stores, and Ground Zero, but the commentary on urban sprawl and capitalism in the collection is beautifully balanced by rich glimpses of the personal. In the poem, "Letter to Eileen Myles", Briante contemplates the decision of whether or not to have a child and calls upon the experience of other poets and friends. The poem, while posing questions about money and the writing life, "What do you make of our economic avant-garde?" is also stripped down to a bare emotional truth: "I've been sad, I want to tell Eileen. I've been spinning around with a decision decided. A body may be finished, but the mind strains."


This book review originally appeared in American Poets, Fall 2011, Issue 41.