The Habiliments by Joe Milazzo

An odd paradox underlies all of the poems in THE HABILIMENTS: the ‘habiliments’ or ‘clothing’ of the title refers simultaneously to dressing and stripping bare. The accouterments, costumes, objects, and trappings in which we construct identity are woven into a tapestry of memory, dream, forgetting, and, ultimately, grief. Milazzo uses allusion, antimeria, neologisms, conversions, and logical disruptions, as well as a deep attention to the elusive uncertainties of language to explore how words simultaneously succeed and fail to express emotion, describe reality, or make sense of our relationship with others. Quotidian reality wears a new syntactical and semantic garb as each poem seems to unravel language and a circadian rotation of “dreams”: ambiguously of sleep, of aspiration, of nonsense, of the fantastic, or of the banal. If Milazzo’s poems are a kind of ‘dream song,’ they are constructed in radically different ways than John Berryman’s (though there are formal echoes of that poet’s phantasmagoric layers). In these dream songs, Berryman’s angst and sorrow collide with John Ashbery’s metaphysics of erosion, Rosmarie Waldrop’s semantic drifting, and John Yau’s surreal atmospherics.


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