REVIEW: Paradise Drive by Rebecca Foust

paradise drive

Read our recent interview with Rebecca Foust here.

by Whitney Kerutis

Rebecca Foust’s Paradise Drive is a collection of modern sonnets. Her book is a series of poems that couple the characteristics of the traditional sonnet with pedestrian themes and trucs. In this act of marbling, the sonnets play their cords from our own rib cages, driving lyrics out of reality— no longer does the sonnet seem gifted to us by muses but from our daily strifes, our internal battle between self-realized and refused identity within society. Modernity becomes siren through the adapted sonnet:

Take me, says this long, languid lick
of limestone and slate-roof house

corseted by a whalebone- thin fence
anyone could unlace


Then remember
you, daughter, born in a scarlet welter
on a wave’s green-curled edge of pain.

An ode to the journey of maturation and identity, Foust’s stark declaration and images arise out of music; rhyme, alliteration and assonance bumping against slang and commercial labels:

Yes, Pilgrim’s a buzz-kill: dour, dry, dull;
what’s cool now is hurling the word,
and insult, at white racists.

Perhaps Foust’s greatest feat in the collection is her unabashed voice, which thrives between the various environments and faces:

We bloom and bloom into old age,
then fade and linger; it’s hard not to hate
those new buds that keep swelling the vine.


Watching the wind lash the house on the screen,
we each thought the same thought: Im not a girl.
But when the door blew open, we all felt the chill

In her declaration to the self, Foust remarkably accomplishes detail and imagery within an economy of language. Striping the sonnet of fluff and instead allowing the words to string effortlessly into clear streams of sound:

Your hands cup paper plate
into a skiff to float you away
from the continent of one man’s hunger.

Let us not forget the painful humor throughout this collection, brilliantly executed through the poet’s extensive curiosity and imagination:

It’s just—
[ time   delay ]— that last dose of Botox
was whale-size, and now I can’t smile or frown
on cue.


Problem: dead’s not an option here in Marin.
Fix: relocate, with upgrade, to a place
where a rat can be loved. And, with excess.
Orange County, perhaps. Or Crawford, Texas.

Paradise Drive lends itself as an example of how traditional forms of poetry can both be retained as well as manipulated to survive in the modern world of poetry. A collection of the individual voyaging through society, Rebecca Foust has proven the sonnet as an adaptable form.

Buy it from Press 53: $14.95

Whitney Kerutis lives in Denver, Colorado and is working on her MFA in Creative Writing for poetry at The University of Colorado Boulder.


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