War of the Foxes by Richard Siken

Richard Siken’s second collection of poems is centered around the idea of painting. Many poems are titled the way paintings would be, and give some description of what the painting might contain, in spirit if not form. He’s using painting as a way to examine self expression, looking at a painting as a way to tell a story, to convey an emotion. It adds another beyond the emotions and stories within Siken’s poems. Siken’s visual language is made less abstract, existing not just as an image in a poem, but as an imagined painting. Adding the act of painting to a poem reminds the reader that the poem is crafted out of a similar impulse. It adds a meta element and a degree of distance at times. The images he creates are lush and precise. I love the way he reads language. I read things to myself, and then read it out loud, because hearing the words in the air adds another dimension. There are poems about war, and about relationships, and about art. There are a lot of birds. It’s marvelous. Siken is absolutely one of my favorite contemporary poets, and this volume was excellent. It’s less violent and bloody than Crush, while still having a strong heartbeat.

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