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Cairo Traffic (Phoenix Poets) Paperback – October 1, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0226741932 ISBN-10: 0226741931 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In stylized tellings of family (especially an ailing, elderly mother), "Proverbs from Purgatory," "Nostalgia (The Lake at Night)" and other looks back, the poems of Schwartz's third collection adopt a variety of poses that can't quite defamiliarize their familiar subjects. Descriptive third-person accounts, dramatic monologues and dialogues are colloquial and direct, conveying heartfelt moments of memory and loss: "He saved the horses.// I haven't thought about this in a thousand years.// It's like a dream: you get up it's forgotten.// Then it all comes back.// Didn't I ever tell you?// Look at me, I'm starting to cry.// What's there to cry about?// Such an old, old memory, why should it make me cry?" Nearly all of Cairo TrafficAwhether coming in terse single lines or couplets, blocks of prose, or sentence-length-determined stanzasAlabors under such nostalgic melodrama, though Schwartz sometimes (as in the lines above) tries to distance himself from it through reportage. Especially disappointing pieces include a slim, contemporary redaction of the Orpheus myth, a superficially Kafka-esque dream in which a mysterious "fat, ugly, dirty" man toys sexually with the speaker in a cathedral, and "Pornography," which offers sentimental insights and leaden double entrendres while describing jazz-age pornographic photographs: "Not quite supine, she strains forward to eye, and/ hold, his bold erection: bat and hardballsA/ major league (his Fenway Frank; his juicy/ all-day-sucker)." The book takes its title from the final poem, a long, meandering, mostly prose account of the poet's travels through Israel and Egypt; it also includes translations of two poems about families by Brazilian poets Carlos Drummond de Andrade and Rogerio Zola Santiago. Fans of Schwartz's Goodnight, Gracie, of his Pulitzer Prize-winning classical music commentary for the Boston Phoenix and on NPR's Fresh Air, and of his critical work on Elizabeth Bishop may find interest in these life stories; others will find little on the page to compel them. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

In the acknowledgments for this book, Schwartz thanks Frank Bidart. This seems appropriate, for many of Schwartz's poems resemble many of Bidart's, with their long lines, prose sections, and other practices that make one question whether this is poetry. Schwartz is prosier and less narrative than Bidart. Several poems concerned with Schwartz's 89-year-old mother's last days and one called "Nostalgia (The Lake at Night)" are composed of single sentences spaced one line apart from each other; only the accumulation of lines turns them into emotional and sensual wholes powerful, concrete, and economical enough to be accounted poems. Similarly, several dreams, a mulling-over of two ancient pornographic postcards, and a 20-page journal in prose and free verse of a trip to Egypt all become poems as they are read. A set of "Proverbs from Purgatory" recalls Blake's proverbs of Hell, though they are wise only accidentally, given their flat-footed folly. At the end, Schwartz has convinced us. This is witty, canny, and vivid poetry. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Poet, music critic, literary scholar, actor, and teacher, Lloyd Schwartz has had an unusually varied career. He is the Frederick S. Troy Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where he teaches in the MFA Program; an editor of three volumes of work on and by Elizabeth Bishop (including the Library of America's Elizabeth Bishop: Poems, Prose, and Letters); and the author of three volumes of poetry (Cairo Traffic, the most recent) and a chapbook (Lloyd Schwartz: Greatest Hits). His poems have been honored with a Pushcart Prize and publication in The Best American Poetry and The Best of the Best American Poetry.


Schwartz was the Classical Music Editor of The Boston Phoenix, for which he has received wide acclaim, including three ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. He is also a reviewer for New York Arts, an International Journal for the Arts.

He began work in radio as a regular cast member of the children's program The Spider's Web. Since 1987, he has been the classical music critic for NPR's Fresh Air, with Terry Gross and has recently published a book entitled Music In and On the Air which features reviews from that program.

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