Bouvier’s ear proves as sharp as his wit, and Living Room evinces the possibilities for sound and movement in prose poems… Reading this exceptional first book, one cannot help but think that this is what Martin Heidegger meant when he proclaimed, “Language is the house of Being.”
— Jordan Sanderson, Rain Taxi Review of Books
The narrating voice in Living Room is insistent but quiet, though it sometimes achieves loudness without any apparent effort. At other times it seems to continue in the reader’s mind even after stopping for the day. It is an important new presence, faintly disturbing and endlessly attractive.
— John Ashbery
They are funny. No, they’re not all funny – some are even disturbing. Let us say they are by turns funny, contemplative, angry, bewildering, witty, mysterious, whimsical, solemn, lively, gentle, outrageous, and stern. What’s sure is that these tight and explosive paragraphs of Bouvier’s have an unfailing and diversified energy all their own, riveting our attention and showing us the unfamiliar within what we thought we knew.
— Lydia Davis
Poetry is being born. It is even perhaps the desire for a new poetry that is at the heart of poetry like Bouvier’s. Not experimentation or finding, merely, but a whole resolution to think of what experience and discovery might mean in a bleak time. Bouvier is athletic, accurate, and burgeoning. Too often we think we are in a bad way, stranded between ancient feuds between abstraction and figuration, but the iconomachia is finished. The joy of this volume lies in an unarmed escape at Cythera, where we do not even know whether we are coming or going there, but poetry, fresh and free, is being born.
— David Shapiro
Bouvier finds an ebullience and often amusement in ambivalence. No Hamlet is he, riddled with doubts. He gets above the ambivalences by a bright, sometimes almost mocking style. This obviously does not get to any answers, or even any ways out of the ambivalences. But it surely presents an unfamiliar, entertaining view on this common state. Bouvier can write, “If we touched hands, it was too much. We touched hands. It was not enough…We lost ourselves, we found a house. We found a house, we lost the house.” (“The House In Order”) He ends “Somebody Stop LaSalle, “To the left and right fantasies. Come amok with me.” The insouciant style yields fetching, occasionally intriguing wordplay.
— Henry Berry, Midwest Book Review, Aug. 2005
The beloved writer and editor Judith Moore used to recommend Geoff Bouvier’s writing as a perfect balance of the spare and the sensual. When I heard that he had published a book of poetry to follow on the heels of his award winning chapbook, EVERYBODY HAD A HAT, I thought, “About time,” for that book came out some years ago. Some of the “HAT” material shows up again in LIVING ROOM, the new and ample collection from Copper Canyon Press, but it is supplemented by so many new poems that what remains is only an impression which, in its new context, becomes merely one of a number of opening doors. Heather McHugh has contributed an introduction which got me a little bogged down, and eventually I abandoned it, not because she’s an inadequate critic, nor because she is unenthusiastic about Bouvier’s writing; no, it is merely that she has her own slant on things and I wanted my experience to Bouvier’s writing to be free, at least, of that tendency.
So then why now am I giving my reactions? Well, for one thing, I’m afraid that books like Geoff Bouvier’s fly under the radar and not enough people know of this unique work. He lives in San Diego, and he works outside the academy, so for many readers, he just doesn’t exist. In “Not Pathetic Enough Weather We’re Having,” he steps back from the scene described almost as a technician. “Read the trees’ confusion,” it begins, in what I take as an imperative, a voice ordering us to read. (But it might also be a slangy use of the past tense, the initial word ‘I’ omitted as in naturalistic speech, like “Went down to the store today.”) His poems are so brief you could almost count the words, and such compression, like the great weight borne down on coal, that turns it to diamond, makes emphasis key. “A sun’s frown’s funny on warm orange pumpkins.” What is with the article “A”? How many suns are there anyway–why not just say “The sun”? It’s a suggestive method which Bouvier uses like a grandmaster, to divert us out of preconceived notions into a place where answers disguise themselves as executioners.
When the real “I” makes a belated entry into the poem, naturally I assume it’s the real Geoff Bouvier. However the rules of modernism intervene, pulling at my sleeve, asking me to consider that, perhaps, just perhaps, this “I” is an authorial invention. “But I won’t feel for it until winter worries away snow.” The poem ends somewhere else, on a “field of sweaty February,” far away from its vision of pumpkins hot, hot, hot. Just so are we transported, as readers, away from the page itself and into another space mental or physical. Now I’m getting more Heather McHugh than I wanted, but you get the general idea.
— Kevin Killian, Amazon Reader’s Review, Sept. 2006