Odalisque employs the lyric poem to achieve a complicated and layered narrative. It is, on the surface, the story of an L.A.P.D. bomb squad detective who falls for a street hooker. This transgression leads to his dismissal from the force, but it is only one of many instances in the book of “stepping over the line.” There is also the story of a “scrivener” and an “odalisque,” which is interleaved with the cop’s story and is simultaneous with it. Indeed, it seems as if there are the same story, read as palimpsests of each other. The events are not so much set in Los Angeles as imbedded in it, because the city, with its free-floating mythologies of fame, immigration, identity, and transformation, are central to the tale. However, in Odalisque, the mythology does not match up with the reality, and the characters find themselves strung up “between seeming and being.” The book reads as one long poem presented in 14-line panels or tableaux.
‘In this superb new book, Mark Salerno questions the place of value in a world of sequels and simulacra. Odalisque submits repetition to novel, unpredictable forms of renewal – a pantoum of the quotidian. Salerno’s tightly wrought poems probe the interstices between seeming and being, between Hollywood and the stars, between “desire and attendant clamor.” If Ingres had placed his Odalisque on the Sunset Strip, she might be looking at us through these poems. This is a completely original work by a serious, important poet.’ —Michael Davidson
‘In Odalisque, Mark Salerno stirs together a bit of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, with a dash of Ted Berrigan, to offer us a feast of intriguing and mysterious poèmes noirs. Shuffling a deck of illuminated ideas, words and phrases, and cloaking the poems in an atmosphere of spoiled romance, urban angst and esthetic longing, Salerno deals out one sonnet after another, each a sure bet.’ —Terence Winch
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