2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2012
This is a breakthrough book for a very accomplished poet with a long career of accolades. He inhabits his familiar voice, but on a different level entirely. Lyrical, mystical, surprising, and full of beauty.
on November 25, 2012
I found this a mixed bag. The poet seems to have developed an off-putting (to me at least) verse formatting style which I found continually and irritatingly distracted from what the poems were really doing. This style consists of (with rare exceptions) omitting all punctuation but capitalizing the beginning of each line, using extra blank spaces within lines, and writing "&" instead of "and".
[Digression: I'm aware that this latter feature is ubiquitous in contemporary verse, and where the heck did it come from? And what the heck is it supposed to accomplish? Convey that the the poet is speaking so urgently that he doesn't have time to write three characters instead of one? Or rather, type three characters instead of one, since one effect of the practice is to fix the reader's attention firmly on the fact that the poet is writing the poem on a machine rather than composing by handwriting or orally. Maybe this is some misguided attempt to give an atmosphere of "spontaneity" in a machine age, but what in turn is the point of that? Isn't "and" just as spontaneous as "&"? And what's the value of spontaneity in poetry anyway? If spontaneity were valuable in itself, farts would smell sweet. End of digression.]
Anyway, I find all this diminishes what could be some interesting poems. The cummings-like use of internal spaces as quasi-musical rests is now old hat and always has seemed to me a technique of dubious value: its effect here reminds me of how the boss making his annual speech at the company Christmas party will punctuate it with long pauses to emphasize that what he has just said is Sincere and Important. I found the combination of the modernistic lack of punctuation with the old fashioned typography of beginning each line with a capital letter just confusing: I kept wondering whether or not a new sentence was supposed to be starting, and the reminder via the capital letter that a new line was beginning had the effect of emphasizing the Clever Line Break Syndrome with which contemporary academic poets seem afflicted.
All of which is too bad, since I thought that beneath these irritating mechanics the poems themselves were generally better than most mainstream current American poetry: I noticed that as the book went on, the poems got better, and as they got better they dropped many of these mannerisms, though those pesky ampersands were still around. Several of the poems give intriguing contemporary slice-of-life short stories which are clearer, better written, and more vivid than most examples of this popular form, and in patches the language really seems to take off, achieving an utterance both unaffectedly poetic and convincingly contemporary. I would have been tempted to give this four stars, for me a high rating for a poetry book, if it hadn't been marred by this superfluous surface gadgetry.
on September 8, 2013
Myth, history and geography weave together so in the course of one slim volume, we readers travel from California to Paris. We join the author in what feels like a Homeric journey meeting iconic characters: the crucifix polishing, Pier Paolo, an ancient master blues guitarist, alluring women named Quicksilver and Selene. As in most myths, one doesn’t know if one is meeting a god or goddess in human form. If so, the tranformational implications are certain although sometimes deadly. The extent to which the poet and therefore the reader will be affected is an inherent tension underlying many poems in The Auroras. There are three seemingly oracular questions which he asks in the poem, The Swan which for me form the core of this book.
How can I keep my life luminous & how can I keep the day delivered?
Where does my constant taste for evasion end & the alter begin?
Where does the word become the Word & why does the flesh remain flesh?