From Publishers Weekly
Dominated by mourning and memory, Voigt's grave, accessible sixth book of verse excels her previous work while building on its strengths. The stark poems that open the volume examine dreams, apple trees, winter fields and (perhaps most impressively) the Himalayas, in a ghazal which is also a tribute to the contemporary poet Agha Shahid Ali. All these glimpses and points-of-view bring into relief Voigt's concentration on illness, dying and grief. Voigt (a National Book Critics Circle finalist for Kyrie) grew up in the South, and her natural details have always linked her to an older tradition of Southern American verse "the deep South a clearer paradigm," as her new sonnet sequence explains. Her everyday details balance abstract, pared-down emotional insights, general truths that recall Louise Glick. "The dead shut just shut up," begins one memorable poem, "High Winds Flare Up and the Old House Shudders"; another considers "our lucky/ or unlucky lost, of whom/ we never speak." More casual work near the back of the book includes translations of Horace's Odes and long considerations of backyard animals, as well as a long, talky elegy for the poet Larry Levis. The well-made, soft-spoken free verse in these final poems will please aficionados of Voigt's early work. Readers will return more often, however, to the clear voice in the first sections: "Calm came into the dream, unburdened as snow./ It sugared the rocks, the rock-encircled trees."
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Voigt's disciplined poems are scrubbed clean, exact in their forms, and calm in tone, refined distillations of deep feelings and long meditations on nature and life as seen flourishing in wondrous manifestations right in her own backyard. These are classical works, and Voigt lays her cards on the table by paying homage to Horace and his odes, models of balance and precision. Like her mentor, Voigt is aware of death hovering in the wings, and, indeed, illness, injury, and age work their bent and burdened ways into her poems; yet the poet remains undaunted, continuing to take profound pleasure in gazing at trees and flowers, gardening, and participating in various kitchen activities, from careful conversations between adult sisters living very different lives to the affectionately aggressive banter among men happy to sit down to a good meal. Deceptive in their hominess and welcoming clarity, Voigt's poems are thoroughly considered creations in which every word, no matter how humble, is worth its weight in gold. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved