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86 Western American Literature friend John’s rural speech and sensibility. Lee uses an early poem, “Phone Call,” to move the reader from the more poetic language of the opening lyrics into the rural language of the book’s heart—not an essential move, but one that emphasizes the author’s choice and purpose in using this language. As the day progresses, Lee intersperses the long narrative poems, largely in John’s voice, with “breaks” in the form of little lyrics. It’s a shame that these lyrics tend to get lost among the more ambitious, irresistably charming and funny longer poems, but even in that they serve their purpose of acting as rests in the action and counterpoints to the earthier language of the narratives. And language—the language of everyday tasks and storytelling—is key here. These are poems to be read aloud. And if you ever get the chance to hear David Lee read them himself, take it. He’s the only poet in Utah who can bring into one room and then reduce to tears of laughter and self-recognition a farmer, the Lieutenant Governor of the state, and the university’s most academic poets, all at the same time. This is because the poems are both crafted and, in the highest possible sense, true. KATHERINE COLES Salt Lake City, Utah Season of Dead Water. Edited by Helen Frost. Foreword by John Haines. (Portland, Oregon: Breitenbush Books, Inc. 1990. 113 pages, $9.95.) When the Exxon Valdez slammed into Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989, letting loose eleven million gallons of viscous oil, many of us, like the editor, felt “blood-boiling rage.” This book is Helen Frost’s response to the viewing of an oil-slicked otter on television and the thoughtless remark of a company official, “That’s the cost of civilization.” She wrote a poem in the voice of the otter and sent out a call for manuscripts, using the words of the Exxon man. The tension between ecology and economy, both of which derive from the Greek root meaning “house,” is the heart of this collection of poems and arti­ cles. Before civilization, there was no distinction between love for and attention to the organisms in the environment and management of the house. As Chief Meganack said, “Since time immemorial, the lives of the Native peoples har­ monize with the rhythm and cycles of nature. We are a part of nature. . . . The water is our source of life.” In contrast, the economic worldview is that somebody is in charge, and that spending a billion dollars can fix any catastrophe, or there’s a manager who made a mistake and is avoiding responsibility. But beyond the initial impulse to point a finger is the realization that, as Patricia Monaghan says, . . . There is not one of us who was not on the bridge that night. Reviews 87 Many of the contributors use economic metaphors to point up the absurdity of applying cash accounting to the life of an ecosystem and the death of hundreds of thousands of birds and mammals. For example, Peter Davison speaks of “cashing in the earth’s bank balance of death.” The cost of civilization is measured here in intangibles—“the cry of the grebe,” the mournful eyes of sea otters. Nature, the supreme intangible, is said to clean itself. But, as a local resident told Jean-Michel Cousteau, “even nature has to dispose of the oil somewhere.” Wendell Berry reminds us, “We all live by robbing nature, but our standard of living demands that the robbery shall continue.” He says accidents like this “should be looked upon as revenges of Nature.” There are nearly 50 pieces, some written before the spill, some in response to previous spills, others bearing no obvious relation to the disaster that has since become commonplace. Several Alaskan writers are missing, having per­ haps been too devastated to write anything. Still, one cannot read the selec­ tions without sensing the grief and loss of part of our last frontier, and reflecting on the cost. SUZANNE SCOLLON Haines, Alaska Other Men and Other Women. By David Dwyer. (Ord, Nebraska: Sandhills Press, 1988...


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pp. 86-87
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