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Raab's seventh outing pursues the same theme throughout, in tones as subdued as the subject is harrowing: the poems concern the end of everything—human life, humanity as a species, all that we can be or know or do. A child dies, love fades, then friendship,/ and soon enough almost everything is gone, says Nothing There; The God of Snow concludes, regretfully, that it had all started out so well. Environmental destruction plays a role, too, in these pessimistic tableaux, which at their best recall Thomas Hardy: like Hardy's, though, Raab's sadness is finally personal and has something to do with advancing age. The sea encourages me/ to think about the past, he writes, as if I could leave it where it is. His free verse and restrained diction complement his conversational phrasing. There are glimmers of humor as well: The life of the Japanese beetle/ is pointless and ugly. Raab was a poet to watch in the 1970s, when his early, mildly surrealist collections drew extravagant praise: he has since settled down into quieter modes, the poems' lack of sparkle offset—and then some—by the quality of pathos within their lines. (June)
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Lawrence Raab is Professor of English at Williams College, where he has taught since 1976. He is the author of four previous collections of poems, most recently What We Don't Know About Each Other, winner of the National Poetry Series and finalist for the National Book Award.