A brilliant debut
Newcomer Matt Donovan offers a remarkable collection of poems in Vellum, his first book and the winner of the 2006 Katherine Bakeless Prize for Poetry. Throughout the volume, Donovan writes about the master artists of the past, their working methods and materials from plaster to ink to paint comparing their crafts to his own. His poems are painterly and often catalogue images, as in A Partial Invocation of Our Days : And yet, let's begin with macadam, fruit bowls, a Florentine mosaic / Louie Louie's three slurred chords . . . Since otherwise our days brim with dismantling, breakage, endless / riffs on the division into parts, I'll invoke here only assemblage. Artists of all stripes Charlie Chaplin, Harry Houdini, Botticelli, Pablo Neruda make appearances in these poems, demonstrating the multiplicity of the creative act. Donovan's broad range of reference and the visual nature of his verses gives this book a wonderful sense of scope and historical perspective. Donovan, it seems, is an artist in love with creation, a writer in love with life, and these rich, vivid poems prove it.