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78 Western American Literature that mankind so seldom achieves its potential for nobility. Bowen’s characters are lively, sometimes Chaucerian. The wandering peddler, Klaus, who is troubled with epic flatulence, is in the Anglo-American tradition of comic bawdiness. With Byronic engagement, Bowen sees America’s expansionist movement occurring in a ruined paradise, an Eden with some springs so poisoned not even algae will grow in them. If revisionist historians choose to seek metaphoric truth in sound, comic fiction, they will find Kelly Blue reward­ ing. Readers not interested in trying to reinterpret history will also delight in Bowen’s sustained, demythologizing vision of comic truth. Bowen cuts through the layers of excessive sentiment which characterize some memorializations of the old West—or any other fascinating period in history. KENNETH W. DAVIS Texas Tech University Lion’s Gate: Selected Poems, 1963-1986. By Keith Wilson. (El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press, 1988. 85 pages, $8.95.) — “it is an entry, a sort of gate, passage to, exit away, the angry maw roaring” The Lion’s Gate of these poems in none other than the ancientjourney of humankind: from the womb to death and on into the magical world populated by the ghosts. This collection is peopled by the ancestors. The voices we hear are real, without guile and unwilling to lie. They simply relate life as it is now and was. In the West we are used to feeling the caresses of the people who lived before us. We do not find it strange to have sudden confirmations of living essences. It is this burning recognition of seeming coincidence that Wilson addresses. In this world there is a respect for all life: the old viejito in Fort Sumner who was locked in the basement, Wilson’s uncle who lies in his casket under a pink bulb, and El Chivato, Billy the Kid, who treated all Mexicanos with respect, as if he were one of them. For all the terror of dark loves and still-hungry ghosts Wilson’sjourney is not without mercy. A reoccurring motif of water eases the parched earth of his people, who are caught midwatch in the landscape, only finding respite in the quiet times with family, in songs and in the solidity of loving. In his wife’s gentle hands Wilson finds meaning: “a wholeness, coming together lost in itself from attention: we are what we piece together” Reviews 79 Again and again we return to the prayer of family. There isjoy in the music of the water, and in rain, which is the sacrament of this desert temple. Our journey through this Lion’s Gate begins as children through the slippery bloody birth channel, “moving, orbited each one tiny, perfect each with its own teeth own hunger nudging his belly along” and it ends “where the light is not muddy, but fierce as angel’s eyes, with the mountains to remind us of our frailties.” DENISE CHAVEZ Las Cruces, New Mexico Calling Texas. By Bert Almon. (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: Thistledown Press, 1989. 79 pages, $9.95.) If Bert Almon were a musician, you might say that he played in minor keys: his strategy is to inspect the cracks, repression, and contrariness in everyday history and experience until he hears strains of dissonance or a minor chord of disconcerting beauty. Some of his poems have the literary equivalent of a great hook, insights that reach out and smack you in the head: a Coltrane riff, a blow from the Buddhist master, a moment of enlightenment. You may argue that such moments are what poetry is made of, and you would probably be right, but you would be no closer to mapping the way that Almon is able to crystallize such moments out of the most mundane experi­ ences, nor would you have explained how he is able to fashion his epiphanies with such good humor. In “Crisis Line,” for example, he contemplates his Aristotelian friend manning a phone at the local crisis center, a task for which Almon believes he is eminently unqualified. Aristotle taught that rashness was one bank of the river of conduct, and cowardice the other: this was his rule of excess and deficiency. Almon...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 78-79
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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