Both Adam Aitken’s Archipelago and Elizabeth Allen’s Present examine the establishment and mutability of identity in the worlds of objects, histories, literature, and media in which they place their speakers. Of course, the exploration of identity is a common theme of poetry, particularly as it pertains to how the material of language helps shape such a tenuous concept. Admittedly, the theme serves primarily as a useful frame through which to enter two starkly different works. All the same, Aitken and Allen’s books prove rewardingly immersive and surprisingly complex in the different ways in which they handle their speakers’ desire for understanding in the crowded spaces of their poetry.
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