Lars Gustafsson: A Time in Xanadu
A Time in Xanadu
Copper Canyon Press
1 June 2008
$19.50 in Canada
From the moment it begins, Lars Gustafsson’s A Time in Xanadu throws open questions of geography and narration. Where are we? How do we know? Throughout the book, the speaker’s voice proves a powerful one as it muses on questions of travel, war, philosophy, and thought itself. The language of Gustafsson’s poems is sparse, and his lines are compact and taut. But beneath the neat surfaces of these poems lie surreal and sometimes eerie landscapes: a castle in Cremona, Italy; “those white, strangely meaningless / days between Christmas and New Year;” a library which is “a kind of subway.” There are strains of Ezra Pound in this work, and allusions to great continental thinkers—Goethe, Fichte, Nietzsche, Einstein—drift across it. Yet tracing those allusions to their source is neither desirable nor, ultimately, possible. For in the wake of Gustafsson’s highly evocative poems, we can only wonder just how much time we have spent, or lost, in Xanadu, or where we went from there.