From Publishers Weekly
In the "Warm-Up" to this Don Juan
–inspired paean to domestic life, Koestenbaum (The Queen's Throat
, etc.) laconically substitutes "I lack a subject" for Byron's "I want a hero." Stanza, in Italian, means "room," and Koestenbaum throughout takes up abode in Byron's famous eight-line rhyming iambic pentameter. Through 13 cantos comprising varying numbers of stanzas, Koestenbaum runs through a California childhood, rubdowns by New York bodyworkers, piano practice, fear of inadequacy, meals mundane and elaborate, imaginings of origins ("I hear my own conception/ when Mother felt the gush from Dad's erection") and blissful union with partner Steve. That Koestenbaum's jokes are purposefully flat ("I've erred. Now, Steve is marinating a steak./ To help peel Yukon Golds, I'll take a break") is only part of the ways in which he separates himself from his 19th-century precursor. An even more constant presence here, though, is the poet's mother, a poet "who has a grief-prone heart,/ Who bore four children, gave up her art/ At least until I was in high school," and whose moods and modes the poet knowingly carries as further model homes, if involuntarily. At its best, this lovely, ambitious long poem most resembles A.R. Ammons's baggy, daily Tape for the Turn of the Year
, but it's still Byronic enough to lodge itself "Between a Pagliaccio and a Puck/ Dying to give King Oberon a suck."
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About the Author
Wayne Koestenbaum holds a B.A. from Harvard and a Ph.D. in English from Princeton University. After being named co-winner of the 1989 Discovery/The Nation poetry contest, he published his first book of verse, Ode to Anna Moffo and Other Poems, which was chosen as one of The Village Voice Literary Supplement's "Favorite Books of 1990." He has since published two other books of poetry and three books of prose, including a collection of essays, Cleavage: Essays on Sex, Stars, and Aesthetics (Ballantine, 2000). He is a tenured Professor of English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.