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Pax Atomica: Poems    by Campbell McGrath order for
Pax Atomica
by Campbell McGrath
Order:  USA  Can
Ecco, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This slim collection of Campbell McGrath's ironic poetry includes many musing commentaries in free verse on aspects of North American culture - ranging from music and movies to travel and take out food.

Train Journal immediately caught me eye - a visual journey culminating in 'Three pumpkins on a back porch. Trestles / of an overpass / resembling Mandarin calligraphy.' In Infinite Needs, McGrath says of our consumer society that 'America's hunger takes nothing for granted ... America's epic is the odyssey of appetite ... So we walk forth, into the future, / consuming as we are consumed.' He aptly labels the Information Age ... 'the Olympian vox populi of CNN / as global witness to our local forms of carnage', with the damning comment 'a new millennium dawns: / a thousand years of Scooby-Doo, / a thousand years of oblivion.'

I liked the satire in Woe's take on Subway sandwiches, the cultural range of Rock and Roll, and (though I prefer Buffy myself) I laughed at McGrath's ode to Xena, Warrior Princess, including 'Some are born to run and some are born to rerun'. Of the death of singer Jeffrey Lee Pierce, McGrath offers 'I am only one of many still listening ... one of many bound to bear witness to what lives on long after the voice of the singer has gone. / A song. / There. Can you hear it?' If you enjoy poetry that speaks to modern times and American culture, then you really should read Campbell McGrath's Pax Atomica.

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