From Publishers Weekly
The official poet laureate of Brooklyn, Nurkse (The Rules of Paradise) has long held a small but loyal readership for his short, quiet poems about dreams, griefs, childhood recollections and surprising urban scenes. This eighth book is his first from a major trade press. It puts the simplicities, short lines and slight surrealisms Nurkse has long used into the work of mourning: most of the poems concern Nurkse's late father, whom he recalls sometimes as a voice from his childhood, sometimes in his last years, and sometimes as a presence from beyond the grave. Often beginning as anecdotes, many slow-paced poems here coalesce around some totemic object or common noun: "shadow," "wind," "dawn," "stone," "body." These tactics suggest, at various points, Robert Bly, Charles Simic and Stanley Kunitz as they were in the late 1960s and '70s; their earlier styles seem closer to Nurkse than Nurkse is to most work now. Sometimes (as with Simic) Nurkse conjures up stark symbolic street corners for his allegories of loss; at other times, they converge at "an imaginary fixed point in Flatbush or Central Brooklyn." Though he is most original when least dependent on autobiography, Nurkse concludes with a series of deeply sad poems set in a hospital, or hospitals, where the dramas of serious illness take place, "night after night." Nurkse's moving if sometimes stolid poems of memory also include a Schwinn bicycle, a "First Date" and subsequent romances, and several games of baseball: playing "Left Field," Nurkse's speaker "was proudest of my skill at standing alone in the darkness."
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
A National Endowment Fellowship recipient and Whiting Writers Award winner, Nurkse offers coming-of-age poems in this, his eighth collection. The topics include baseball, first love, sex, the early death of a parent, illness, marriage, and divorce. In his poems about childhood, Nurkse writes with a kind of innocence: "We said last rites/ for a fleck of mica." In "The Dog," he captures that sense of equality and camaraderie children often feel for their pets: "At twilight we walk each other/ in the snowy park./ The leash yanks us apart./ Our trails mix crazily./ Haven't we always traveled/ in a series of lunges/ away from a missing center?" Nurkse's style is simple, almost conversational, yet underneath the words, the reader senses great emotion especially in the poems that recall his father's illness and early death. The final poems record the poet's own serious illness while evoking youthful visits to his father's sickroom: "Now you are here/ at the other end of my life/ and you are the silence in the room,/ the light sweeping from wall to wall,/ fever itself, no longer just my father." These well-crafted poems are recommended for most collections.Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.