(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Ange Mlinko’s first collection, MATINEES, makes a dramatic entrance for this young poet. The work features hard, glittery city poetry with an experimental edge, but without a lot of self-reflexive theoretizing. These poems are intensely visual, with rapid shifts of scene and perspective that border on the surreal. The best of the poems yank the reader in to be dragged along at a breakneck pace and finally left awed and dazzled. (A few of the poems, however, just rush on past.)

Mlinko is an alumna of Brown University’s graduate writing program. She has published in trendy journals, such as GRAND STREET and AGNI. Her home is New York City, although Boston and other urban landscapes also appear in the collection, which is centered by its vision of the city.

These poems convey what it is like to be a young city dweller with tremendous energy, a mind that records like a camera, and an inexhaustible hunger for experience. The poems jolt to life, careen around corners, slam on squeaky brakes. Even the titles crackle with energy and wit: “Immediate Orgy and Audit,” “Poem Bejeweled with Proper Nouns,” “Just Dump Me on the Palace Steps.”

One of the most cohesive poems is “The Traveller,” about an uneasy plane ride. (What happens when the speaker gets on something going faster than she is?) The ending illustrates Mlinko’s breathless and weirdly compelling style: “Going to the bathroom I saw/ the cockpit curtain part and all those gauges exposed in dyed light/ like a/ headbanger’s catscan! I wrote this when I wasn’t sure I’d live and/ writer’s block reversed like bicycle pump applied to aneurysm./ Inflight magazine/ crossword puzzle filled in, they assigned me to seat E which looks/ up the center aisle/ if they crash, hammer on the scale, I fly up like the weight/ that bings the bell.”

This is exciting work, accessible enough not to demand knowledge of a metalanguage as price of admission, but indirect enough to tantalize.