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112 THE MINNESOTA REVIEW Thomas McGrath. Open Songs: Sixty ShortPoems. Uzzano Press: Box 169, Mount Carroll IL 61063, 1977. no pagination. $2. McGrath, one of this country's best poets on the left, has not received the attention he deserves. Open Songs are not haikus, or not many of them are, but they have a haiku brevity and polish. Many are thoughts dressed in imagery: Anonymity has a name; Which Terror knows. Some seem direct transcripts ofexperience: The wind groans through the trees, Dragging its heavy cargo Of coarse fur. Though sharp, the tones are muted. A leash is kept on the eye. Henrik Nordbrandt. SelectedPoems, tr. Alexander Taylor and Nadia Christensen. Curbstone Press: 321 Jackson St., Willimantic, CT 06226, 1978. 83pp. $4.50 This is a very good book. Everywhere in it language is used with precision. This is not to say that Nordbrandt writes about concrete things like lawnmowers and boots. He usually focusses on process, which gives his poems an abstract quality that resembles, but definitely is not, contemporary surrealism. His processes are as definite and as complex as lawnmowers, as a "A Life": You struck a match and its flame blinded you so you couldn't find what you were looking for in the darkness before the match burned out between your fingers and pain made you forget what you were looking for. Few of the poems have this traditional sense ofwholeness. More often, the experience is one of being in the presence of—as opposed to being brought to—a kind of airy energy. The poems are like slabs of bright limestone, cut but still sitting in the quarry. A good bit of the book is taken up with Mediterranean landscapes, real and imagined. Nordbrandt's fascination with this world isn't clear to me yet, but it produces the effect of an encounter with something ancient and, because of that, important. The ways in which these ancient worlds are brought into the present are often brilliant. "Our Love is like Byzantium" ends: When I turn towards you in bed, I have a feeling of steppinginto a church that was burned down long ago and where only the darkness in the eyes of the icons has remained filled with the flames which annihilated them. My favorite of these poems, "Baklava," again about annihilation, involves not BOOKSINBRIEF113 only an encounter between an old and a new culture but also one between a poor and a wealthy one. It is a rare poem of bourgeois self-awareness. I feel uneasy in Athens, Istanbul, and also in Beirut. People there seem to know something about me which I myself never understood, something enticing and dangerous like the submerged necropolis where we dove for amphorae last summer, a secret—half perceived when touched by the street vendors' glances suddenly makes me painfully aware of my skeleton. As if the gold coins the children hold out toward me were stolen from my own grave last night. As if casually they had crushed every bone in my head to get at them. As if the cake I just ate were sweetened with my own blood. Roger Mitchell William Everson, RiverRoot (A Syzygy for the Bicentennial of These States). Oyez/Berkeley, California; 45pp.; $2.50 What a beautiful thing that William Evetrson'ßRiverRoot comes out in a period of such sexual derangement. For what this epic and magnificent poem does is restore the love m«lcing between a man and a woman to its voluptuous and shuddering essence. It is as if Walt Whitman saw from the grave, with somber yet newly startling visage, that all the democratic vistas have long since been shattered like so many burned out tenements in the South Bronx, but still believed. As the revolutionary potential of men and women as equal beautiful forces becomes more and more a political/social/sexual possibility, the doddering social order becomes a deadly fetter on all our instincts toward liberation. Everson, a former monk (Brother Antoninus), gets to a vision of bonding in this poem that is enrapturing. Quieter, for obvious reasons (a century's difference), than Whitman, his celebration is nonetheless ecstatic, ceremonial and deeply erotic. In a most...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 112-113
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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