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86 WesternAmerican Literature My Name is William TeU. By William Stafford. (Lewiston, Idaho: Confluence Press, 1992. 78 pages, $17.00.) William Stafford has won the 1992 Western States Book Award for this work, a gathering of poems from six limited-edition chapbooks. Readers will find themselves in Stafford’s familiar atmosphere, where elemental terms like “wind,”“world,”“time,”and even “old car”reverberate with emotion and a kind of intuitive metaphysics. This poet feels his way through our reliable if often mysteriousworld and makes his reports. The book hasfour divisions: “Doing My Job” deals primarily with nature, “Dreams of Childhood” and “Our Town Owned a Story”involve us in a past that Stafford’s steady readers are likely to feel is now their own, and “Crossing the Campus”becomes a little more topical. Stafford proudly calls himselfa regionalist in the preface to this collection, “Sniffing the Region”—as a coyote sniffs—and readers of western poetry will find his geography familiar. Familiar but not necessarily comfortable: the sharp­ ness of tone is unusually intense. This time William Stafford isWilliam Tell and ready to fire arrows with careful aim at targets such as nuclear installations (“At Fort Worden: Calling Names”), moral sleaziness (“Crossing the Campus with a New Generation”) and experiments on animals (“Experiments”). The poems show an awareness of the discordant, tragic melodies that play over the ground bass of a life that sustains us. There is the mad mother who hangs her children and there are parents who can be remembered with tenderness. In “Remember­ ing Mountain Men”Stafford evokes the beaver drowned in the chains, then says of the mountain men, “When I dream at night, they save a place for m e,/no matter how small, somewhere by the fire.”The poem quietly implies the cost of a romantic way of life that the speaker still admires. This is counting costs, not cost-accounting. The style of these poems is austere, sometimes prosaic. The object is fidelity to the perception: we could say of Stafford’s work that it embodies several senses of the indispensable word “true”:being true, holding true, aiming true. BERT ALMON University ofAlberta Moan Crossing Bridge. By Tess Gallagher. (St. Paul: Graywolf Press, 1992. 99 pages, $17.00.) When Tess Gallagher first splashed onto the scene in 1976 with Instructions to the Double, she established herself as a provocative sensibility of titillating surfaces, capable of charting dramatic moments with an underlay of complex emotional nuance. “Coming Home,”a brilliant depiction of a desperate daugh­ ter and worn-weary mother locked in their habits of need, ends reaching with a question: “What did you mean/by it, this tenderness/that is awhip, a longing?” It is at this pitch of heartache that Moon Crossing Bridge arrives. These poems, dedicated to the late Ray Carver, are love poems—unabashedly inti­ mate, swollen with memory and longing. On firstreading we are carried bytheir emotional urgency, participating with an almost voyeuristic empathy from the physical factness ofdeath “alone with the powerful raftof his body” (“Paradise”) to a philosophical serenity that embraces “the lightness, the necessary/discrep­ ancy of translation”of life into death in “Picking Bones.” But upon rereading, the poems seem to give less rather than more. The reader becomes aware of the poet’s discrepancies in translating her emotional fabric into language: pieces of many of the poems blur into vagueness and problematical ambiguities, approaching sense and implying contingencies that fall away. The poet seems to keep escaping through fanciful contraptions like the simile in “Reading the Waterfall”: So much of love is curved there where his pen bracketed the couplet mid-page, that my unused trousseau seems to beckon deeply like a forehead pressed into paradox by too much invitation. The folded trousseau beckoning is humorous, but the poem continues with dead earnestness. Certainly, the power of nuance (“There is that getting worse at saying/that comes from being understood/in nuance”) and the positive power of negation have become useful techniques for Gallagher. “Un Extrano,” a poem about taunting love as the bullfighter taunts death, ends: “My adorno, el novillito. Don’t/begin. Don’t ever begin.”The seductive “I Don’t Know...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 86-87
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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