Displaying articles for: March 2008
becalmed on hard white sheets,
the narrative of legs, arms,
animal centers stilled,
some starlight in the mind glittering off
and on, couldn't tell me
whether or not to leave her
The keystone sequence, "Elevens" -- comprising eleven poems, of eleven lines each -- takes us straight into the heart of mortality's dilemma. The poet's own "old heart" reveals itself, "lit up on the screen, / the arteries, veins and ventricles." Plumly centers his poetry inside the embodied world -- air, snow, mountains, trees, grass, animals, insects. His lines have a sinuous and subtle beauty, like smoke. Yet they light up again and again in pure radiance. Poets speak to one another across time and space in their poetry. In Old Heart, Plumley converses with Pound, Stevens, Eliot, and Keats, and with his contemporaries: Donald Justice, Michael Collier, Henri Cole. As the list suggests, this is a curiously masculine book, like Melville's Ishmael adrift on the sea. It is also wide-rangingly philosophical, understated, modest, and, ultimately, hauntingly exquisite. -
So begins this Newbery Medal?winning volume of 17 monologues and two dialogues with Hugo, the lord?s nephew who faced down a charging wild boar. The author, a school librarian, sought to rectify the shortage of performance material for her students who were studying the Middle Ages. She does so magnificently in this fictional village, populated with archetypical children living in or near an English manor in the year 1255. Among the denizens: the aforementioned Hugo; the blacksmith's daughter (awkward socially but skilled at the forge); Alice the shepherdess (who sings to her sheep); and Otho, the miller's son, caught between the nobility and peasantry. Unusual words ("fraints" are boar droppings) and diverse topics such as religious pilgrimages, the Crusades, crop rotation, and falconry are glossed in welcome, often humorous asides and notes, while Byrd?s watercolor-and-ink illustrations gloriously illuminate a microcosm of medieval life. -
Jerome Charyn's fiftieth book may be his best. Abraham Lincoln, known to his contemporaries as a man who loved to tell a good story, steps down from history's pedestal to narrate his improbable career with wit and charm. A bravura act of literary ventriloquism.
The name Eliot Ness and his struggles to bring down Al Capone have passed into the annals of pop heroism via "The Untouchables." But Douglas Perry's biography reveals the less glamorous -- yet no less thrilling -- truth behind the crimefighting myth.
Hassan Blasim offers his first-hand account of contemporary Iraq, in surreal short stories alive with awe, empathy, and a native son's vantage point.