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Chains & Mirrors - Rattle E-Review
Date of Review: 
Published Work: 
Cati Porter

Alex Grant is a native Scot currently living in North Carolina. His manuscript, Chains & Mirrors, won the 2006 Randell Jarrell/Harperprints poetry contest and was recently awarded the Oscar Arnold Young Award by the Poetry Council of North Carolina for most outstanding book of poetry published that year. He has been the recipient of a Pavel Srut Poetry Fellowship, first place winner of the 2006 Kakalak Carolina Poets Anthology contest, and was selected for inclusion in this year's Best New Poets Anthology (University of Virginia Press).

A slender, perfect-bound volume containing twenty-one poems, two thirds of the poems collected here were either finalists or honorable mentions for some noteworthy poetry awards such as the Discovery/The Nation (2005 and 2006), Nimrod's Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize (2005), and the Arts & Letters Rumi Poetry Prize (2006).

Chains & Mirrors takes as its epigraph a stanza from the Robert Penn Warren poem, Tell Me a Story. It reads:

Tell me a story.

In this century, and moment, of mania,

Tell me a story.

Make it a story of great distances, and starlight.

The name of the story will be Time,

But you must not pronounce its name.

Tell me a story of deep delight.

In the acknowledgments Grant thanks Warren for this "posthumous thunderbolt," for this is the thread upon which the book is constructed. Each of the poems here tell a story, drawing inspiration primarily from historical and religious subjects. Included among them are poems about Jesus, Neruda, Emperor Qinshihuang, Gilles de la Tourette, Li Po, and Lillian Gish. Though varying in approach from poem to poem, the collection is unified by a consistent tone, a developed voice that is even and measured, clean, precise diction, and lines that are not padded with unnecessary words.