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The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nation's New Millennium General Assembly
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Lately known more for his fiction (Jesus' Son, LJ 2/1/92), Johnson attracted attention in the 1980s for a poetry that depicted a disillusioned America driven to strangeness by media addiction and consumerism, a nation of "Face-owners... impossible to impress, dead inside,/ Looking for somebody they can trust again,/Someone to make them feel betrayed one more time." This awkwardly titled omnibus collects the author's four published poetry collections, adding 16 poems written since The Veil (LJ 7/87). Sleepwalking the same moonlit territory of self-negation and despair opened by Mark Strand three decades ago, Johnson tries to spike the bleakness with complex images ("All night the moon rings like a telephone/in an empty booth above our separateness") that often devolve into confused abstractions. Where the early work can seem too somber and self-pitying, and the later poems too smug in their formulas, "The Incognito Lounge" and several other pieces still impress with their spectral invention but not sufficiently so to support a retrospective of this size.-Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, N.Y.

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