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Frank Polite

Hyde

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Polite fixes his rollicking chase through Egypt, Greece and Las Vegas in the form of a novella-length narrative poem, creating an entertaining hybrid of formal poetics (in this case using the pantheras, an invented Turkish form that requires a 21-line unit made up of three stanzas) and suspense fiction.

The dark hero, Hyde, is also a curious mixture; his gallant, slightly debauched style suggests Byron's Don Juan while his name, dress clothes and cane evoke the menace of Stevenson's character. The plot of the poem coheres as a sort of postmodern police thriller, with Hyde an arch-criminal, who with his lover, MiLady, is pursued by Fantoush, head of a clutch of klutzy agents, from Trebizond to Las Vegas. Hyde is both a comedian and knave, an adept of Jung and a trickster. T

he addled orientalism of the Mideastern references is in the extravagant spirit of '30s movies like Morocco, which wove a fantasy out of veils, harems, jewels and opaquely presented sexuality. Polite's verse is conversational and sometimes irresistibly quotable. Here, for instance, is Hyde revisioning Yeats: ""Hyde has seen this look/ in Marilyn, Elvis & others/ who, exhausting their/ lives, arrive full circle at/ the last incarnation of/ themselves, as Archetypes."" Polite's unconventional narrative shows that high seriousness need not be divorced from wit, which is, after all, the great, living discovery of all the Romantics. Illus. (Jan.) FYI: Hyde won the International Quarterly Crossing Boundaries Award.