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378 WesternAmerican Literature Nielsen explores the physical universe in search of a lost Platonic world. While she never quite reaches this world (or the elusive “blue rose”), the search itself seems of value. The poems themselves abound with word-play: alliteration, punning, and classical/romantic allusions. The author frequently fractures syntax while pre­ serving sense, in a style reminiscent of Gerard Manley Hopkins. As in Hopkins, a religious dimension pervades many of the poems, for example “On the Christ Who Lives Within.”The poem “Tortoise”recalls Hopkins’s sprung rhythm and his vision of the things of this world, down to a line that reads, “inscape of mustard seed instead.” The tortoise is . . beautiful/ in being all and just the thing he is,”a verse echoing Hopkins’s “selves goes ourself.” These poems must be read slowly (and read several times) to be compre­ hended. This poet adopts manyvoices, some occasionally too erudite or too coy. Phrases like “to our needing wagon house” (from “Plains Cradle Song”) and “Some suddenlys we near” (from “The Hoverer”) fall below the level of the rest of the text. The density ofcertain lines sometimes interrupts the poems’flow, as do abrupt shifts in the poet’s mercurial voice. Endings seem flat or sentimental in several poems, most notably in “Swift to the Window” and “The May Re­ union.” The personal poems, some elegiac in tone, are the most moving. In a sequence of poems on blindness in the section titled “Their Magic Light” the poet’svoice is memorable. Searing emotions are stated in a clear voice: “They’ll lift the deepest topaz out of morning’s/mourning socket when they take your eyes away.” In Looking for the Blue Rose students of poetry will find a subtle mind employing elegant rhythms and diction to probe beneath the surface of reality in search of greater truths. SUSAN ELIZABETH GUNTER Westminster College ofSalt Lake City Imaginary Ancestors. By Madeline DeFrees. (Seattle: Broken Moon Press, 1990. 96 pages, $10.00.) Inconstant History: Poems and Translations. By Gregory McNamee. (Seattle: Bro­ ken Moon Press, 1990. 96 pages. $12.95.) Two 1990 releases by Broken Moon Press, Seattle, represent high quality in paperback poetry books. Imaginary Ancestors, by Madeline DeFrees, and Incon­ stant History, by Gregory McNamee, are companion volumes whose extra-glossy covers sparkle with contemporary appeal. The superficial gleam is balanced by Reviews 379 enduring elements in design, printing, production (sewn bindings) and paper (acid-free). Both books are 96 pages, more or less, depending on what you count. But why is the DeFrees volume half-an-inch wider than McNamee’s and $2.95 cheaper, at $10.00? It seems the Broken Moon library would be more compat­ ible if perfectly matched. In some ways, the contents of these two books are also similar. Both are collections of relatively short, well-written, literate, witty, playful and readable free verse. However, DeFrees pursues a more intimate course than McNamee. She describes much of her work in an “Author’sNote”as a search for her “lineage,” which has been clouded by an “orphan mother” who provided contra­ dictory accounts of her own biography. From there, DeFrees attempts to re­ cover (or uncover) the “self’ obscured by 38 years in a convent. Finally, she alludes to several bookish influences on her literary life. Cathedral bells resonate in “Clare of Assisi”as DeFrees edits her name: ... I saved myself. Chopped off the Mary, axed out the Clare, forgot about burlap and beggars, let go of the altar. Assisi was a lot like Camelot, as hard to forget. With ocean and lake everywhere, I still hear those bells underwater. Among the cerebrations are celebration and pain. The tone is revealing but not cloying. Much of the language is colloquial. There are allusions—Emily, Horatio, Galileo and Garbo—but many are explainable in context. The DeFrees genealogy included is pertinent. If there is a confession within the autobiography, no further penance is required. From “Horatio Alger:” . . . Like Author Unknown, like Anonymous, I had arrived, was secretly famous. Gregory McNamee’s Inconstant History: Poems and Translations is a puzzle, a gazetteer and a “Word Power” exercise, all without the answers I needed on...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 378-380
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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