The Book of Faces

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Praise for The Book of Faces:

“Joseph Campana’s The Book of Faces is an extraordinary debut. Audrey Hepburn (yes) is the muse and channel for his meditations on the seductions of the screen and page, the Bright Lady of his sonnets, the star and spirit who ‘drags / the miracle vapor forth.’ His poems—lovely, witty, sincere or cynical things—are haunted both by Hepburn (and her leading men) and by a fascinating array of literary specters: Catullus, Petrarch, Chaucer, Spenser, Foucault, Barthes. At times, the surface blurs till poetry wears the austere face of prose, and prose assumes the oblique face of poetry. The vocabulary is disarmingly simple, but the syntax is refracted and compressed in beautifully riddling ways. ‘Fix me a you comfort in darkness…’ Campana writes, and we can imagine the nectar power of that ‘you comfort,’ that cocktail. The Book of Faces is not the expected fare but something finer, more provocative, enchanting and rich.” —Alice Fulton

“T. S. Eliot reminds us that the capacity to murder and create is intimately linked to the act of ‘preparing a face to meet the faces that (we) meet.’ The faces of Joseph Campana’s beautifully inventive first collection are those that stare most urgently at us while we grow blind: hunger (spiritual and literal), war, peace, fame, hope, fashion, heartlessness, greed. What this one vision does with the idea of the mask alone is groundbreaking—the face of the maker, the face of the made. ‘Do I make or do I do what I cannot help but show, what I would hide had I the wherewithal to do so,’ he asks in exploring our need for idolatry. ‘The failure of likeness and the theft of appearance’ is one of the many projects of this book—the frenzy of seeing, the greater frenzy of making one’s self a visible entity. And all wrapped in its wild and amorous exploration of its idol: Audrey Hepburn, with a few other Princesses thrown in: Garbo, Diana—goddesses and idols that span a thousand years—all our fair ladies from Aphrodite to Givenchy. ‘Bankrolled by Paramount,’ as he says, re-imagined by Spenser, Barthes, utterly re-envisioned by Joseph Campana.” —Jorie Graham

Review at Publisher’s Weekly:

The Book of Faces
Joseph Campana / Author Graywolf Press $14 (119p) ISBN 978-1-55597-433-6

There is obsession and then there is Obsession. Taking the thematic poetry collection to its extreme, Campana’s debut approaches Audrey Hepburn from every possible angle. She is paramour, foil, touchstone, teacher, queen and, ultimately, a way to talk about the act of making a self (and a poem). Despite (or perhaps because of) the singular subject, Campana’s poems take all manner of forms-including a canzone, sonnets, an abecedarian romp, lists, dramatic monologues, even a concrete poem in the shape of his idol’s initials-and draw on a wide array of intellectual and literary figures such as Catullus, Foucault, Ginsberg and Barthes. Campana often relies on repetition and semantic and syntactical misdirection to keep the reader off-balance and blur the lines between Hepburn and other figures. This works to great effect in poems like “”A History of Idolatry,”” which asks “”When one becomes a fashion has one in fact been fashioned?”” It can, however, also fizzle (“”Stamp me and mail me and send me away””) or be needlessly obscure (“”I beast myself now you’ve flown””). Readers willing to see so much poetic and emotional weight invested in Hepburn-and in the ubiquitous “”you”” who is both her and not her-will find plenty of moments to admire. Even so, this is not a project that is above questioning itself and its icon, as Campana himself demonstrates late in the book when he writes: “”So yes, I said, yes, this is / another damned Audrey Hepburn poem. / Why the hell are you still with me?””

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