From Publishers Weekly
Often chatty, usually likable and occasionally profound, Ochester's fluent free verse also includes a remarkable range of subjects, from his own Polish immigrant heritage to "Fred Astaire," "Retired Miners," shopping malls, Rust Belt retirees, a baboon watching apes, "Mike's lymphoma," "Pasta," "My Penis" and "empty trains," whose chugging makes the repeated sound "Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower." Ruminations on autobiographical detail often utilize a single long sentence, its goal either deep compassion or broad comedy-or, in Ochester's best poems, both. "The Canaries in Uncle Arthur's Basement," for example, remembers when "Aunt Lizzie was in tears/ because Arthur came home from the soccer game drunk/ and because he missed dinner brought a potted plant/ for each female relative, and walked around the table/ kissing each one." Opposed in principle (as the title poem says) to "people who talk about form," Ochester pays tribute by name to Frank O'Hara, Gerald Stern and William Stafford; his merging of heartfelt warmth with oddball detail suggests a blend of Albert Goldbarth and Stephen Dunn. This second selected (which includes the whole of his 1989 selected poems) should bring Ochester, the longtime editor of the Pitt Poetry series, the attention his body of work deserves.
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Ed Ochester has his thumb on the American pulse and his ear tuned to the American voice in all its urban-suburban-backyard-backwoods-rustbelt-ad agency and Hollywood-inspired dreaming and folly. --Alicia Ostriker