Friday, March 5, 2004

The Exit Show — Book Review and Author Interview

Anne F. Walker’s The Exit Show was the first trade poetry collection published by Palimpsest Press and I was pleased to see that it was reviewed on The review, written by Sarah Bonet, is excerpted below. Sarah Bonet is a poet, and award-winning playwright and screenwriter. The entire review can be read at

The Exit Show
Reviewed by Sarah Bonet

Sex, in this book, becomes a vehicle for comprehension. Anne F. Walker’s fourth collection of poetry, The Exit Show, draws on multiple sexual and romantic partners as a way to explore and articulate complex social and poetic forms. Walker’s collection flows easily through a variety of formal and not-so-formal constructions (prose poems, emails, individual lyrics, and lyric suites), tied together by a powerful rhythmic sensibility reminiscent of a jazz drummer.

These varied sensibilities, in which form both echoes and transforms content, illustrate a method of poetic sexual comprehension. The multiplicity of forms evokes a world of shifting connections; they move within and around each other like bodies at a party- touching for a brief transformative moment, discovering a personal, private language, and then breaking away and sending out new tendrils in search of another connection.

Walker is an established Canadian author whose previous books (Into the Peculiar Dark, Pregnant Poems, and Six Months Rent) have examined illness, poverty, pregnancy, and birth, all with a strong presence that expresses the breath of the body in a manner that transcends the pages. As she turns her eye to experimenting with sexual norms (much of the poetry is set in the San Francisco Bay Area... need we say more) she continues to present a tangibly embodied sense of language that is truly breathtaking. This collection won several awards in manuscript form, and clearly pushes Walker’s work past previous thematic and aesthetic boundaries.

Walker’s use of rhythm is also worthy of note. Often, with younger poets, there is a struggle to find a cadence both individual and rhythmically fresh, and this effort to break into a kind of improvisational flow strains the poem. Walker’s cadence, on the other hand, is elegant and sure. She is not trying to do—she simply does. Her linguistic drum solos both serve the poem and elevate it.


The Danforth Review also interviewed Anne. Please see below for a selection. To read the entire interview go to

Q: Your latest book is THE EXIT SHOW. The back cover says this is a book "about coming to terms with plurality." Maybe you could explain your project here a little?

Anne: Many levels of pluralities are important within The Exit Show. Both the poetic aesthetic and content thematics explore variation. Rather than link myself with one particular school of poetics I utilize fusion. I see value in a tremendous range of forms and explorations. Some of these I practice in The Exit Show. Sometimes I mix and match, and sometimes let the forms stand cohesively within a particular piece. On the large scale this is to do with the varied styles within the collection as a whole: lyric, prose poetry, short stories, email form, and an integrated linguistic montage piece. On the closer-reading scale, tones switch sometimes within individual pieces.

In The Exit Show I played switch with narrative voices, sometimes narrating my own stories, sometimes others’, all using a mix of third person and first person, playing with directive and tense structures, and filtered through imagination. I stay away from autobiography, or its antithesis, as universal rules. A closer-reading scale example of this is in "Retail Slut," where I had the she-character speak in present tense, and the third person narrator speak predominantly from inside the he-character’s perception, and placed that awareness in past tense. A schism then exists between the time each character works within, even when they are in immediate dialogue. The story was based on a real story, but I switched the characters’ genders.
Social and physical landscapes integrate as both are, in human terms, aspects of consciousness. We understand both via our apparatus for comprehension. That which we see may be more descriptive of our tools for interpretation than anything else. This is what I mean by both being tropes of consciousness. When I can link place with motion, and with sound and overlaps, I feel joyous in my craft. I move that way in "start sequence 8. selling a car":

a glide of space above a boxy red jeep cherokee beneath
a white heron slides through air above freeway next to
(you were a bird. you were) next to the estuary

those constant small motions, of the series of docks
in which your boat is tethered, begin to suggest
how delicately (to me briefly, you were the ocean

I worked to develop a way to describe how the delicacy of motion between water and vehicle describe a personal attachment, and doing so with a rhythm that mimics the small waves, with imagery of repetition, and an endless end. The lyric works with elision of time and space, of narratives that overlap simultaneously via parenthetical interjection. I am very interested in temporal dislocation. When consciousness leaps away and returns I wonder how it connects to pluralities in the flow of time.