from the U of Arizona Poetry Center:

New in the Collection
By Library Intern Kristina Erny and Library Specialist Wendy Burk
The Plot Genie by Gillian Conoley. Omnidawn, 2009.

“Quick, more lives!” opens this character-filled frenzy by Gillian Conoley. Her Rimbaud epigraph is appropriate, as the pages of this book are filled with characters conjured up by the “plot genie”: the Handsome Dead Man, Miss Jane Sloan, E, M, the girl with one glass eye, the genie, and Comedy Boy, to name a few. “The plot genie is one of the most virile helps which has ever been devised,” the narrator says. As the voices shift and flow from one poem to the next, the poems seem to run into each other; the characters interact and the content accumulates throughout the book: “Many of us were not there, but were rumored soon to arrive.”

Formally so interesting, Conoley has constructed a fractured narrative that is a metatextual commentary on the creation of character and narrative itself. “We lay sleepingŠ/ not knowing/ which is more fictional-the hand in the book,/ or the book in the hand.” She intersperses photographs and photocopies of erasure poems, as well as multiple pronouns and perspectives: us, we, multiple I’s. The reader is truly swept up into this imaginary place where the Handsome Dead Man lies in a bed and E and M converse with each other, asking: “What are we waiting for? More importantly, what are we walking on?” The book functions as one long poem, a fluid and flowing journey through the imagination of creation. A joy to read, we are taken up, wrapped up; as she writes, we return to “The page/ returning to its/ hunger.”
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