Book: Meme: Poems

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Book:

Meme: Poems

Author: Susan Wheeler
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Publisher: University of Iowa Press

Acclaimed poet Susan Wheeler, whose last individual collection predicted the spiritual losses of the economic collapse, turns her attention to the most intimate of subjects: the absence or loss of love. A meme is a unit of thought replicated by imitation; examples of memes, Richard Dawkins wrote, “are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.” Occupy Wall Street is a meme, as are internet ideas and images that go viral. What could be more potent memes than those passed down by parents to their children? 

Wheeler reconstructs her mother’s voice—down to its cynicism and its mid twentieth-century midwestern vernacular—in “The Maud Poems,” a voice that takes a more aggressive, vituperative turn in “The Devil—or—The Introjects.” In the book’s third long sequence, a generational inheritance feeds cultural transmission in “The Split.” A set of variations on losses and break-ups—wildly, darkly funny throughout and, in places, devastatingly sad—“The Split” brings Wheeler’s lauded inventiveness, wit, and insight to the profound loss of love. One read, and the meme “Should I stay or should I go?” will be altered in your head forever. 

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