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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’s friend has not been hired to weigh the balance in judgment—he is there to offer consolation. “Two thousand years down­ stream from the Greeks,”Almon writes, “we don’t even see the shores / as our little boats yaw in the estuary.” This tone of irony and paradox is Almon’s trademark. Another is his relationship to the past. A number of his poems recall relatives he has known, and others, long dead, that he has not. In either case, he breathes life into them, documenting some secret—a grandmother driven mad by the death of her infant daughter, an aunt about to enter a nursing home, tipsy from a few tablespoons of medicinal whiskey, recalling her first, and only kiss—that makes the sepia-toned photographs alive in an immediate and poi­ gnant way. 80 Western American Literature Almon’s territory is the wide horizon between his native Texas and his home in Canada; there he pauses to listen to those obscure and ancillary voices singing songs that are too often ignored. STEVEN PUGMIRE University of Washington Dog Star. By Harold Enrico. (Vancouver, B.C.: Cacanadadada, 1990. 77 pages, $12.95.) “Ich habe schon den Totengeschmack auf der Zunge,” uttered Mozart shortly before his death. The sixty-nine-year-old Harold Enrico, too, seems to have had the taste of death on his tongue while preparing the forty-nine (mostly) morbid poems collected in DogStar. Though extraordinarily eclectic in form, the repeated theme of these lyrics, some as brief as seven lines, is the inevitability of death. Enrico approaches this idea from avariety of perspectives, displaying a full spectrum of moods. Early poems in the collection, such as “Dog Star” and “Embers,” defy casual acceptance of death; old age is described as a time when “Embers smoulder in the spinal cord,” occasionally “bursting into flame”with “a passion to live life over again.”Indeed, this passionate clinging to life underlies and outlasts even Enrico’s poems of despair; “Time,”in the poem by that title, is portrayed as “the mongrel bitch”whose progeny have all “suc­ cumbed to accident and disease,” but several pages later the short narrative “Morels” recounts a mushroom-hunting trip to the woods and concludes with the participants “smack[ing] [their] lips over the taste of earth.”Other poems, however, show desperation, frustration: “I crave another body. This one will never do,”cries the human...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 79-80
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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