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Approximate Desire (Inland Seas) Paperback – October 1, 1999
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
The achievement of Approximate Desire is more than considerable; it is indispensable. These are poems of deep compassion and remarkable vision, and I was both haunted and sobered by the ways in which sorrow finds its equivalent in love, and vice versa. An original and fully engaging debut collection of the first order. -- Jack Driscoll
The poems in Russell Thorburn's Approximate Desire are full of lush precision and gentle grace. These poems travel far in place and time, displaying an astonishing range while grounding themselves in subtle, impressionistic landscapes. Cocteau, Apollinaire, Einstein, Ty Cobb--you never know who's going to show up, but it's clear that everyone is comfortable here on these pages. I love the quiet dignity of these poems. When I read this book, I felt someone's hand over my heart. -- Jim Daniels
We read the title soft as description, hard as an imperative. I balance between--Thorburn wields some gentleness of attention to a man's fantasies and fond reminiscences, but there is also a tough-minded agenda here, to make sense of the given, what his life gives him to work with, the karmic webs of his own inclination and happenstance, his cities and false starts....Baseball is an art and its practitioners are smart peers to surrealist poets and famous painters. But in the best poem in the book, it's a poet alone who works it out with a city all around him, and loses, and loses his life into song. -- Robert Kelly
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
(New Issues Press, 1999)
reviewed by Catherine Sundt
In the space of 61 pages of poetry, Russell Thorburn takes his readers from Paris to Minnesota, to the 19th century and back again, and into the minds and interactions of historical figures ranging from Einstein to Ty Cobb. It is this range and variety that makes his poetry collection, Approximate Desire, so appealing to everyone from a poetry expert to a novice reader.
The book is divided into three parts, each with its own rhythm and tone. In the first section, Thorburn describes personal experiences of historical figures, focusing mainly on the French surrealist poet Guillaume Apollinaire. Switching between first and third person narration, Thorburn shows Apollinaire's varied experiences in France. He experiences the turmoil of war. He plays a lighthearted tennis matches with his friend, the Parisian artist Marie Laurencin, in which they exchange witty banter. "Dammit," he cries at her, "behave / like a woman," as she sticks out her tongue, / hands on her hips, flat-chested painter / with eyes much bigger than her face." Later, in an imagined conversation, Apollinaire discusses relativity with Einstein, describing how "the fire of mathematics / lights his eyes, his shirt unbuttoned / to the chest, and he tells me / about the way the world will end." It is this flawless juxtaposition that Apollinaire presented in his own poetry, and Thorburn continues beautifully against the setting of Paris.
The second section is the most eclectic, and seems to be where many of Thorburn's personal experiences come forth. Many of these poems are driven by specific settings or landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower, Montreal, or a mysterious Lesznianska Street.Read more ›