Complex Sleep.

AuthorBower, Lisa
PositionBook review

Work Title: Complex Sleep

Work Author(s): Tony Tost

University of Iowa Press

122 pages, Softcover $16.00


ISBN: 9781587296215

Reviewer: Lisa Bower

As the choreographer of Complex Sleep's verbal acrobatics, Tost's senses are tuned to the frequency where words and their meanings collide, break apart, and come back together again. This collection revolves around the way the brain processes the world.

Tost's first book, Invisible Bride, was selected for the 2003 Walt Whitman Award. The eight poems in his follow-up are sophisticated and often punny creations. Without traditional narrative, the poems are complicated spirals of meaning; they test and retest the possible permutations and re-imagine how words are paired and processed. These poems challenge the debatable and often fluid boundaries of poetry.

The first poem of the collection, "Imaginary Synonyms," speaks both to poetic boundaries and the reader's assumptions of meaning. While many believe a synonym to consist of two words with similar meanings, Tost challenges this by breaking apart words and pairings; as a result, meaning is transformed. Two words may be linked, but they are different. In this poem, the eye is as important as the ear: Tost pairs "palate" with "plate." The resulting wordplay that pops up throughout the collection is both hilarious and thought-provoking.

The title poem speaks to how meaning is dissected and rebuilt. Having formal constraints, Tost...

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