In this debut collection, Mark Wunderlich creates a central metaphor of the body as anchor for the soul-but it is a body in peril, one set in motion through the landscape of desire. In poems located in New York's summer streets, in the barren snowfields of Wisconsin, and along stretches of Cape Cod's open shoreline, the lover speaks to the beloved in the form of lyrical missives, arguments, and intimate monologues. The poems converse with each other; images repeat and echo in an effect that is strange and beautiful. Uniting the collection is an original and consistent voice-one that has found a hard won stance against the haphazard and negotiates with what is needful and sufficient. The Anchorage is a collection of love poems for the end of the millennium and takes as its subjects the dichotomies of love and illness, the urban and the rural, homosexual desire and familial tension. Wunderlich faces the complexities of contemporary life through poems that are both tender and striving and that leave the reader with an image of the body as a door through which one can transcend the suffering of the world.
A Stegner fellow at Stanford, Wisconsin-born Wunderlich explores his own life as a gay man in this first collection of mostly autobiographical narratives that are frank and unabashedly narcissistic but seldom fresh. Despite a certain amount of nostalgia for the golden days of muscle boys and roller-blading, putting on make-up and consulting psychics, Wunderlich dwells on loss, especially for a lover who is eulogized in numerous poems - it's a sequence we've read too many times: a hospital emergency visit for night-sweats ("The Bruise of This"); visiting an out-of-town doctor who assures the two that "the world does not pause for" them ("To Sleep in a New City"); the empty bed and his own blood tests ("How I Was Told and Not Told"); the dying lover's thirst ("Thirst"); and many poems lingering on the lover's absence. Wunderlich imagines that the "material world" speaks to him, which is why his poems record everyday sights, from a horse grazing in a meadow to the roadside visions on a trip home to Wisconsin in which he proclaims, "This is America." A number of poems support the notion that "sex is like faith" - notably "Cease, the Heart is With Me," which juxtaposes porno images of a stud masturbating with a portrait of St. Sebastian pierced with arrows; and the poems expressing fondness for drag queens in New York's meat-packing district. Wunderlich's dominant themes and images come together in the long, prosy "This Heat, These Human Forms," which splices together stories from the past - about his horse in boyhood, a street fight, an S&M display at a streetfair - with an elegy to a dead lover. More somber verse from the age of AIDS. (Kirkus Reviews)