SKY WRI TEI NGS by NASSER HUSSAIN
From Coach House Books, Nasser Hussain’s collection SKY WRI TEI NGS operates within the three-letter bounds of existing airport codes. His resulting poetry is inventive, playful, and never breaks form, making the read a bit of a grownup Where’s Waldo as the eyes try to spot the words inside these trios. Sketches of the globe with flight routes drawn between airports appear throughout—as if to show us the journey the poem has traveled to come into being.
But Hussain’s poems do more than merely play with language and airport codes, they play with familiar narratives too—riffing and rewriting them—from biblical stories to famous poems and poets. “TEN DRR BUT TON (FOR GER TIE)” is one such example, a whimsical allusion to and after Gertrude Stein: “ROA STA COW; MUT TON; BRE AKF AST; SUG ARR; / CRA NBE RRI ESS; MLK; EGS; APP LES; TAI ELS; / LUN CHH. . .” There is even a Dr. Seussian poem, “THE CAT THE HAT,” still composed from airports, but in all lowercase for an emphasized feeling of story-time. To its end, SKY WRI TEI NGS is always clever, often funny, and globally conscious, and without doubt, the perfect companion for your next delayed flight.
—Review by Madeline Vardell