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The Bounty by Derek Walcott Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997, 78 pp., $18 Walcotfs first coUection of poems since Omeros (1990) has the Uthe grace and lapidary richness of imagery that his readers wül find famüiar. Walcott maps out an uneasy and surprising relationship between himselfas mourner and thepoem as elegy. He also considers the relationship of his birthplace, the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, to Europe, and the importance of his native patois with respect to the literary English he has come to love. The scope of his subject matter is impressive: he celebrates and glorifies the path of a line of ants and the vastness of the ocean; he aUudes to John Clare's primitivist "Mouse's Nest," to Guy de Maupassanfs folktales, and to Dante's Paradiso. The resulting poems, contemplative, often haunting, are as sattsfyingly lush and complicated as one would expect from the Nobel laureate . The Bounty is divided into two unequal sections. The first consists entirely of the title poem; the second, longer section features a sequence of elegies and meditations on art. In "The Bounty," an elegy for his mother and for the poet John Clare, Walcott reconciles the position of the poet as mourner with that of the poet as maker. Keeping the material in its place, he seems to say, is the only way for a poet to grieve fully and to offer consolation to himself and the reader. He concludes: "No, there is grief, there will always be, but it must not madden,/like Clare ..." The second section of the book begins with a short lyric that tells the reader: "Now, so many deaths, nothing short of a massacre/from the wild scythe blindly flailing friends, flowers, and grass . . ." This reflection introduces a series of poems on mortality, on the history of Europe and the Caribbean, and ultimately, on art. Walcotfs goal seems to be one of reconciliation: to find consolation for death in art; to find, in tracing the differences between the Old and the New World, a love for both. In "Signs," Walcott begins: "Europe fulfilled its silhouette in the nineteenth century/with steaming train-stations, gas-lamps, encyclopedias ,/the expanding waists of empires . . ." There follows a sweeping, yet deliberate consideration of Balzac's realism, opera, the Holocaust and the invasion of Poland, followed by a direct address to Adam Zagajewski, to whom the poem is dedicated. Perhaps only Walcott could manage such a scope of subject matter without trumpeting his virtuosity or calling undue attention to his formidable technical mastery. The Bounty offers itself to the reader as a meditation on the struggle for reconciliation and consolation, and it is a moving record of this process and its relationship to making art. (NK) Gut Symmetries by Jeanette Winterson Knopf, 1997, 223 pp., $22 Winterson's newest novel traverses the famUiar territory of her previous books, where fairy tale meets sexual politics. The novel explores a trio of bizarre, but unflaggingly articulate, characters whose relationships are as 228 · The Missouri Review compücated as Winterson's writing is elaborate. AUce, a physicist, meets Jove, another physicist, on an odd cruise where both lecture on scientific theory for the pleasure of the passengers . After starting an affair withJove, AUce meets his wife, SteUa, and begins an affair with her also. The narrative , which alternates between aU three characters' points of view, progresses through the many intricacies of this arrangement while divulging the eccentric histories of this triangle: AUce was born on a tugboat in England to an upper-middle class fairdly whose crone of a grandmother keeps a preserved rabbit as a talisman and introduces Alice to the music of the Beatles; Stella was born on a peddler 's sled during a legendary blizzard in New York, with a diamond permanently embedded in her hip due to her mother's craving for the gems during her pregnancy; and Jove is raised in the shadow of his mother's famous ItaUan restaurant where he meets Stella and begins their romance with the gift of a Bowie knife. The author sustains this dizzying array of lurid tales whUe entwining the separate points of view of Alice, Jove, and Stella...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 218-219
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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