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In one way or another most of the poems in Home and Variations are about displacement. Sometimes this is literal, but more often there is another kind of displacement at work. It can be a matter of finding American homes for European-derived poetics, as it is in poems like “Two Short Films on the Translation of the European Imagination to America” or, say, “Experimental Researches on the Irrational Embellishment of Chicago,” (which takes a form from André Breton and repurposes it for the American midwest).
The textual raiding, sampling, and splicing that we see in many of many of the poems (most notably “Citation Suite”) can be seen as a way of making the self at home in an initially alien textual environment – a reworking of text to make the available discourse into a habitable (and, inevitably, hybrid) space. The sources for splicing include everything from David Bowie to William Blake, often in the same poem. The process is a kind of mutation of the global textual DNA to fit local conditions.
Satire (a way of making yourself at home with things that bother you) finds its way into the book, especially in the send-up of the academic left of the nineties in “In Elsinore.”
As a rule, the book’s longer poems are more experimental than the shorter ones, at least on the surface of things. Some evolutions of textual DNA (the sonnet, for example) are hardy species, and have a good chance for survival, even now.
‘Robert Archambeau’s new collection belongs to a species nearly extinct today: the poetry of serious wit. Whether memorializing the “victory over the sun” of the Russian Futurists, or submitting Vermeer’s View of Delft to elegant ekphrastic variations, or slyly sending up the academic left in his deliciously nasty “In Elsinore,” Archambeau has perfect pitch. Home and Variations will leave you smiling with admiration at its author's inventiveness.’ —Marjorie Perloff
‘Home and Variations is an impressive first book of poetry and an important one. A great deal of contemporary poetry struggles between the conventionally Romantic, forever warm first-person singular and the somewhat shop-worn, post-modern inter-textual no-person plural. Archambeau chooses instead an informed poetic discourse which examines and judges. There are poems here that examine the curious life of European aesthetics in American soil and others that play at received texts with grace and insight. Out of a sense of cultural (and national) displacement Home and Variations manages an unexpected, literate poise. For Archambeau, clearly, poetry is an activity involving speculation, investigation and wit, a space where history, text, high culture, myth and the contemporary popular flotsam can be seen together, played and played at. These poems are relentlessly smart and engaging, wry, surprising and occasionally wickedly satiric.’ —Michael Anania
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