Review of Botero’s Beautiful Horses
From Owen Percy , Canadian Literature #209 (Summer 2011)

Equine, Bovine, Divine

Botero’s Beautiful Horses is the latest in Jan Conn’s unique body of poetic writing that blends science, history, image, and dream into what she calls the “[s]trange embrace” of the surreal, the concrete, the visual, and the intellectual. Conn’s verse here is terse and aphoristic as often as it is lush, evocative, and ornamental. Opening with epigraphs from Pessoa, Page, Lispector, and Paz, and often revolving ekphrastically around the paintings of Remedios Varo, the collection as a whole takes up the speaking consciousness of a North American literati (allusions and references to Al Purdy, Malcolm Lowry, Michael Ondaatje, Charles Olson, and others abound) wandering wide-eyed in a magical, transhistorical Latin America. The first section, “The Light of Poinsettias,” explores the beauty and sublimity of Mexican and Venezuelan geography and history from a consciously outsider perspective in poems like “Ahora” and “Angel Falls.” The poems in the second section, “Cosmological,” act as our tour guides through a violent pre-contact Aztec empire, which is good, because “[c]oming here alone is not recommended.” The poems in the subsequent sections “Blunted Gold” and “Amazonia” return mostly to the present, and offer the collection’s most outstanding verse (particularly the Mars-landing poem “Signs of Water” and the eloquent elegy for the speaker’s mother “Belém”)…

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