A Review of Nancy Iannucci’s Temptation of Wood


by James H Duncan 

One of the most unique aspects of Nancy Iannicci’s new book, Temptation of Wood, is how the poems each feel like transmissions from different moments in time, from a tempestuous, harrowing, and almost pre-apocalyptic future in her opening piece “Traffic” to a somber sense of nostalgia in “A Flower in a Frost Cover,” in which a poet contemplates the empty spaces of time that keep passing by:

I live
like a shadow,
he said. So I’m just
gonna lie here until my candle
burns to the ground…

The poems seem to exist in three worlds at once: a fabled yesteryear where memories are born; an aching present where nostalgia grips tight; and a tarnished tomorrow where poems roam endless highways and shadowy nights of neon and hope, of desperation and delicacy—a gripping journey through the dark night of our modern reality. 

Another thing that stands out is how so many poems have a strong sense of movement, of travel, of never feeling settled. In “Taxis to Nowhere” our poet cries, “I have to go! I have to go where I feel most happy & right now  here  isn’t it.” And when we do stop moving for a moment, there are wondrous, mysterious, almost mythical things to discover, as in the poem “Ischia”:

Drifting through Italy’s
cobblestone streets,
he faced Ischia again
in a small, shadowy café.

She coiled his tongue
like ivy slipping
down his throat faster
than he could inhale.
The delicacy of her taste
at a moment of compulsion
debilitated his godliness.
She was volcanic and
made him feel mortal.

The collection begins to feel almost Odyssey-like with its movement and reflections, journeys filled with Beat poet references and otherworldly characters, hopping all over our subconscious and yet seamless in transition from one poem to the next. In the hands of a lesser writer this style might feel choppy, but Iannucci uses excellent flow, timing, and wordplay to give the entire collection a feeling of belonging, that every line and poem is vital to the overall message. Even at its most chaotic, the work feels on-theme. 

For example, in “The White Building,” we get that same kaleidoscope sense of movement, place, and purpose all at once:

It was the place: Islands,
manuals, waxed curbs, ledges,
drops & pothole deficient
asphalt.
A hum of bees swarmed
menacing & echoing off
of its parking garage walls.
I could hear the vibrations
from across the street
sitting in Gino’s Pizzeria.
I crossed back
over the road when
it was safe.

We’re there, entering a memory, and it’s all happening at once, our mind shooting all over like a pinball in a bonus round, but there’s meaning too it, a narrowing down to the heart of the poem, a white building, a pause, a reflection, connecting this busy entrance to a mile marker way back in the memory that stands still while the world around it rumbles and rotates. So many of the poems here do that, hold a piece of ground while time passes, while the landscape shifts. You get hectic pieces, then moments of clarity, just like life.

And what good is poetry if it doesn’t take you all over time and space to remind you of why we’re here? To remind you that life is messy, but some things will never leave you? The poems started to make me remember my own such moments, and perhaps the best compliment I could give a collection: the poems made me want to write about my own memories.

I highly recommend this collection, which should be available any time now from Nixes Mate Press. Keep an eye out.  


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