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     Volume 5 Issue 94 | May 12, 2006 |

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American Poetry


The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan
Alice Notley et al (editor)
University of California Press; November 2005

More than 20 years in preparation, this is a major volume of 20th-century American poetry, bringing together everything that the Providence, R.I.-born Berrigan (1934-1983) would or could have published. Notley (Disobedience, etc.), Berrigan's second wife, and their two sons (both poets) have meticulously re-edited Berrigan's books-he took the book as a real unit of composition-incorporating late drafts and fixes, and carefully re-formatting his very intentionally spaced open field verse. Just as importantly, they have sifted out the chaff from the super-productive Berrigan's oeuvre. Most poetry readers know The Sonnets (1964), Berrigan's brilliant adaptation of Burroughsian cut-ups; they are as fresh, funny and targeted today as were 40 years ago. Fewer, though, know the 11 other books (and many more chapbooks) he published, each one deepening the addresses to friends, lovers, strangers and places (especially New York) around which he structured some very complex, very beautiful, often very delirious and very funny quarrels with people and language, with time and with space. Berrigan was a notoriously charismatic reader, teacher and participant in the community that developed around the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church; his persona has been cited as often as his poems.

On Earth: Last Poems and an Essay
Robert Creeley
University of California Press; April 2006

Robert Creeley, one of the most significant American poets of the twentieth-century, helped define an emerging counter-tradition to the prevailing literary establishmenta postwar poetry originating with Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and Louis Zukofsky and expanding through the lives and works of Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Denise Levertov, and others. When Robert Creeley died in March 2005, he was working on what was to be his final book of poetry. In addition to more than thirty new poems, many touching on the twin themes of memory and presence, this moving collection includes the text of the last paper Creeley gavean essay exploring the late verse of Walt Whitman. Together, the essay and the poems are a retrospective on aging and the resilience of memory that includes tender elegies to old friends, the settling of old scores, and reflective poems on mortality and its influence on his craft. On Earth reminds us what has made Robert Creeley one of the most important and affectionately regarded poets of our time.

God's Silence
Franz Wright
Knopf Publishing Group; March 2006

Wright's Walking to Martha's Vineyard won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize; this book offers more agonic short poems on struggles with addiction and pain, but from a perspective much closer to faith than despair. Extended pieces like "East Boston, 1996" arrive at brutal truths ("the eyes of the terrified/ terrify") and miniature lyrics such as "The Choice" ("God can do what is impossible, but / God can only do what is impossible") seem to project upward in spiritual longing. In an Icarian approach to the light, Wright weaves a doubt-tinged refrain"I have heard God's silence like the sun", through poem after poem; pieces such as "On the Death of a Cat" ("Dear Stealth / of innocence....") compete with more inspired passages. And as with Walking, the poet's father, mid-century poet James Wright, looms large, as absence and as towering presence. Although there are serious dips in the road here, the best poems offer hope and compassion, and embrace the contradictions they present: "Proved faithless, still I wait."



Compiled by: Sanyat Sattar

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