From Publishers Weekly
A worthy addition to the recent American literature of place, this year's Yale Younger Poets collection keeps to Mammoth Cave, Ky., where McCombs lives and has worked as a guide. The opening sonnet sequence is written in the persona of Steven Bishop, a slave who was a guide to the caves in the mid-1800s. Whether or not McCombs's period-ventriloquism is accurate, his just slightly stilted diction transforms ordinary observations into pleasing verse. "He told of tides/ and how the ocean is affixed as with a chain/ to moonlight," McCombs writes in "Star Chamber," while "Echo River" makes a more musical point: "By slapping/ the water with the flat of my paddle,/ there comes a sound like the ringing of bells." Building on these understated pleasures, McCombs sneaks broad sexual comedy past the reader in "Visitations": "It is the women/ on the tours that give me pause, delicate/ ghost-white, how, that night, I'm told,/ they wake to find themselves in unfamiliar/ beds, and lost, bewildered, call my name." The poems that follow miss the peculiarly off diction of the opening sequence--and even in those poems, McCombs goes back maybe too often to his key words: "silence," "light" and "night." But the compellingly eccentric word choices and odd history and geography come together often enough to make this the finest Yale Poets selection in years. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
It's always interesting to see what will be chosen next for the renowned "Yale Series of Younger Poets," and last year's choice proved particularly strong: it went on to become a National Book Critics Circle finalist. The title, which hints metaphorically at the mythic cold north, is also the name of an inaccessible passage in Kentucky's Monmouth Caves, where McCombs worked as a ranger. In a quiet, steady voice polished as the cave's limestone walls, McCombs delivers a history (both geologic and human) of the cave.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.