Evolution of the Bridge: Selected Prose Poems collects work from Maxine Chernoff’s previous volumes written over the past thirty years. It features such classics as “The Last Aurochs,” “A Vegetable Emergency,” “Utopia TV Store,” “New Faces of 1952” and provides the reader with ample evidence that Maxine Chernoff continues to be one of the most significant practitioners of the prose poem in America today.
As Michael Benedikt, editor of The Prose Poem: An International Anthology, said of her work, “Underlying all of Maxine Chernoff’s prose poems is the possibility of magic.” Writing in the fabulist mode, she explores the bizarre in everyday life and questions the very rules of engagement with language, social norms, and politics. The reader is jolted out of his complacency by the lens of her writing. “If the world could look through Maxine’s eyes for even five minutes every day, there would be no need whatsoever for the pompous self-righteousness that currently spoils the polis. Her views of human life are wise and corrective tales that cure by correcting perspective” (Andrei Codrescu).
Her abiding interest in the prose poem has led to a collection that not only shows what she has done to revitalize the form but also where it may go from here. Witness the new prose poems in the section collected from World: Poems 1991–2001. As Rachel Loden notes, “The absurdist playlets-cum-vaudeville skits are some of the best fun ever vouchsafed to a poetry book. Each of these routines is a valiant attempt to limn the shape of human logic, a project that turns out to be both daunting and curiously satisfying.… What’s left is the spine of language and the rippled furrows of the human brain. And perhaps Groucho Marx and Margaret Dumont at war in a sort of paradise. “ Ethan Paquin, referring to the same dialogue-based prose poems states that “these comedic scenes are remarkable for their transcendence of comedy. It is as if the speakers were engaged in the world’s final debate. The only question is `Which world?’”
‘Maxine Chernoff's prose poems share the metapoetic extravagance of the likes of Henri Michaux, Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar. Evolution of the Bridge should establish her as one of America's great fabulists.’ —Michel Delville
‘Chernoff is a funny, invincible poet. Reading her is like watching the triumphant survival of wit and intelligence.’ —Jayne Anne Phillips
‘If the world could look through Maxine’s eye for five minutes every day, there would be no need whatsoever for the pompous self-righteousness that currently spoils the polis. Her views of human life are wise and instructive tales that cure by correcting perspective. She is one of our best zaddiks. It’s the truth.’ —Andrei Codrescu
‘… wit, common sense, an exacting awareness of the everyday bizarre, diverse personae, roots upended most tellingly, solid stuff …I haven’t laughed so hard since Kenneth Koch’s Thank You.’ —Kenward Elmslie
‘There is no anticipating either the music or the logic of Maxine Chernoff’s poems. This is the reward.’ —Library Journal