Of Thee I Sing

Timothy Liu

If John Milton and Walt Whitman hooked up to cruise truck stops and pick up rednecks for sex in restrooms, these poems are the sort they might write about the experience. Timothy Liu’s fifth book is the point at which religious ecstasy, patriotic fervor and male sexuality become lust-filled poetry of America. Liu’s free verse takes the entire poetic tradition as its point of departure. For example, “A Song of Experience” melds an alternately abusive and caring mother with a homage to William Blake, and Wilfred Owen’s World War I “Anthem for Doomed Youth” becomes a meditation on anonymous sex. Liu’s transformations are startling and original, with lush language and series of fragmentary images to illustrate the tensions between the divine, the political and the physical.