Poetry in Review

Clampitt, Heaney, Schnackenberg, Walcott

Cynthia Zarin

A poem is itself an act, part of the life it describes,” wrote David Kalstone in the introduction to Five Temperaments, his study of the poets Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, James Merrill, Adrienne Rich, and John Ashbery. Kalstone’s consummate gaze was compassionate, interested, and serene. He was writing about poets whom he fully expected to produce more poems—work whose contours he had begun to imagine but could not yet fathom, as one never can. Of his five poets, however, three would not live into what we might call the start of old age. Kalstone’s book was published in 1977; within two years, both Lowell and Bishop were dead. Lowell died that September, at sixty, in a taxi on his way from the airport to the New York apartment where he had lived for many years with his second wife, Elizabeth Hardwick. Bishop died two years later in Boston at sixty-eight of a cerebral aneurysm. Merrill, of whom Helen Vendler had written, “The time eventually comes, in a good poet’s career, when readers actively long for his books, to know that someone out there is writing down your century, your generation, your language, your life,” lasted longer, dying in 1995 at the age of sixty-eight. (Kalstone himself died at fifty-three, before finishing his extraordinary study of Bishop, Becoming a Poet, which was later edited by Robert Hemenway and provided with an afterword by Merrill.)

The dreadful symmetry of the early deaths of many of the most important poets writing in English in the twentieth century has interrupted the possibilities of what might have been said in our time. By the early 1970s, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell, and Sylvia Plath had died by their own hand. Dylan Thomas, Delmore Schwartz, and Frank O’Hara were also dead. In January 1995, six months after Merrill’s death, Joseph Brodsky died at fifty-five. Both deaths were ascribed to heart attacks. Brodsky, who had served eighteen months of a five-year sentence of hard labor in a Soviet prison camp near Arkhangel’sk, had been in frail health for years; Merrill died of AIDS: both deaths could be described as symptoms of the century. From these poets we have no late poetry or poetry of old age. In an essay called “Child of Civilization,” Brodsky wrote,

For some odd reason, the expression “death of a poet” always sounds somewhat more concrete than “life of a poet.” Perhaps this is because both “life” and “poet,” as words, are almost synonymous in their positive vagueness. Whereas “death”—even as a word—is about as definite as a poet’s own production, i.e., a poem, the main feature of which is its last line. Whatever a work of art consists of, it runs to the finale which makes for its form and denies resurrection. After the last line of a poem nothing follows except literary criticism. So when we read a poet, we participate in his or his works’ death.

It is not possible to imagine the landscape of English and American poetry had these poets lived into old age, to know what, reading them, we might have learned about ourselves and our time, nor what their influence would have meant to a new generation of writers. Lowell said of Bishop that her poems seemed to him like poetry written by someone in the future; we cannot know what that future would have meant for Bishop—her work, though, was becoming increasingly architectonic—but we know what it means for us.

The sound of the spade going into the earth, the clang of metal, the meaty potatoes black with scurf clinging to their skins.

These past months have brought books by Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott: both address, head on, the preoccupations of old age. Here too, is a Selected Poems of Amy Clampitt, which serves to reacquaint readers with her last book, A Silence Opens, and reprints uncollected poems, as well as a new book, Heavenly Questions, by the extraordinarily gifted Gjertrud Schnackenberg, her first in ten years. The voice of Schnackenberg, who is a generation younger then these poets, in this volume has taken on the hushed, elliptical cadence of mourning: the voice of the one left behind.

“A POEM IS ITSELF AN ACT.” Seamus Heaney’s first book, Death of a Naturalist, was published in 1966, when Heaney was twenty-eight. Here are the familiar first lines, from “Digging”: “Between my finger and my thumb / The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.” The poet compares himself to his father, who is outside the window digging potatoes, and then to his grandfather: “By God, the old man could handle a spade / Just like his old man.” But we find Heaney musing by the penultimate stanza,

                           the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb,
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

The sound of the spade going into the earth, the clang of metal, the meaty potatoes black with scurf clinging to their skins—the spade at once excavating and revealing, bringing up dirt and piling it to one side, where it becomes something else: a molehill, a shrine. More than any poet now living, Heaney has named and enlivened the world created and inhabited by his pen. One recent autumn day out in the country, I stood with my eleven-year-old daughter and watched and listened while a man—Scots, though, not Irish—called Andrew Pighills taught us how to resurrect an old stone wall that had fallen in on itself. He made a level out of two sticks and string, which he slackened, then pulled tight, and chose a mallet, saying, “You mustn’t hit the top of the stone, but aim right through it to the other side.” We were in a Heaney poem. We spent the morning finding the old stones with the edge of a shovel, and training our ears to the clang.

But Heaney’s pen is also a gun; and the gun in Death of a Naturalist is Chekhov’s—the pistol on the wall that must fire in the last act. That future shot, predicated but not yet heard, turns up eighteen years later in Heaney’s Station Island (1986) in the poem “Chekhov on Sakhalin.” On his way to Sakhalin Island, Chekhov smashes a glass of cognac against the iron ship rails. “In the months to come / It rang on the burden of his freedom / To try for the right tone—not tract, not thesis.” While the death of the naturalist is premature—the boy who turns from the “gross-bellied frogs” will go on to write almost continuously of the world’s natural life, sublime and contrary—but the fired shot nevertheless finds its retort, almost a half century later, in the first poem of Heaney’s new book, Human Chain. The poem is called “Had I Not Been Awake.” It is a little story, a narrative. The speaker is woken up by a sound—a gust of wind, which scatters the leaves from the sycamore until “the roof / Pattered with quick leaves”—that startles him awake, “the whole of me a-patter.” Impossible not to pause here to note the play on patter – the roof is also “patterned” with the yellow leaves; underneath “the whole of me” in another key, is the echo of a heart going “pitter-patter.” In the third stanza, another version of the “patter” image underlies “It came and went so unexpectedly / And almost it seemed dangerously / Returning like an animal to the house.” The patter here is the—imaginary—animal’s footprints. The whole is pulled off, as it were, behind one’s back. But then the sound is repeated, the retort of the first gust of wind, described now as

a courier blast that there and then
Lapsed ordinary. But not ever
After. And not now.

The moment is only one moment, then and now. The moment is important; without it, nothing comes next. And murmured—encoded—under the syllables of the next line, the hereafter.

In this book the father has become the grandfather, and the son, ear cocked, has grown old. The pen is there still; in the poem “The Conway Stewart,” the eponymous pen is a graduation gift. The shopkeeper lifts it up to demonstrate. The reader is party to “its first deep snorkel / In a newly opened ink bottle // Guttery, snottery.” The dive into the inky sea becomes a link to the future in which the speaker will write a letter to the past he is leaving behind: the pen is a parting gift.

The pen, the retort. In this magisterial book Heaney’s tropes reverberate. In places, the poems rhyme with one another. The “not ever / After” that ends “Had I Not Been Awake” echoes on the next page in “Album.” The speaker is shin-deep in bluebells, “Looking out / At Magherafelt’s spires in the distance.” These poems talk not only to us and to one another, but also to silence. At the center of Human Chain (for the first time, I think, the center of one of Heaney’s books is indeed the center of his life) is an account of a stroke suffered in 2007. His wife of thirty years, Marie, went with him to the hospital in Letterkenny. In an interview in The Guardian, Heaney spoke about the poem’s genesis, “To me, that was one of the actual beauties of the stroke, that renewal of love.” In the poem “Chanson d’Aventure,” he elucidates,

                           in the sunlit cold

Of a Sunday morning ambulance
When we might, O my love, have quoted Dante
On love on hold, body and soul apart.

It is not quite true to say that Heaney’s work has lacked intimate speech, but his poems have been vernacular more often than personal; one can count the instances—as opposed to Walcott or Lowell, for example—of love poetry’s singular patois. Among these is “The Skunk,” from Field Guide (1979),

After eleven years I was composing
Love-letters again, broaching the word “wife”
Like a stored cask, as if its slender vowel
Had mutated into the night earth.

Heaney is teaching in California. As he writes to his wife, a skunk noses its way onto the patio. Months later that image is restored when the poet, reunited with his wife and “stirred / By the soot-fall of [her] night clothes at bedtime,” recalls the skunk as he watches her “head-down, tail up hunt in a bottom drawer / For the black plunge-line nightdress.” The lines summon a memory of desire recollected within desire itself. Here, years later, in the sequence “Eelworks,” whose beauty is equaled by Heaney’s sleight of hand (the poet’s “old familiar / purl-pearl, selkie-streaker”) the speaker is at once storyteller—“To win the hand of the princess / What tasks the younger son / Had to perform!”—and hero, tugging his forelock, but the joke is coming, dead serious:

For me, the first to come a-courting
In the fish-factor’s house
It was to eat with them

An eel supper.

The scrawl of a life turned into fairytale, then myth—the archaic, priapic eel, which later in the poem is skinned, “drawing down / Like silk / At a practiced touch.” As in “Chanson d’Aventure,” Eros is generative. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, the pulse of thirty years of marriage keeps alive his hand, which after the stroke, is “flop-heavy as a bell pull.” Love stays him from “A letting go which will not come again. / Or it will, once. And for all.”

Stop-time. Once and for all; but not ever after: one after another, the poems in Human Chain fold on to each other, as in the astonishing sonnet “Clearances” from The Haw Lantern (1989), in which the young poet with his mother takes sheets off a clothes-line: “So we’d stretch and fold and end up hand to hand.” The page is smoothed, then shaken out again. And under the title, too, is the image of linked paper dolls, folded and cut out. Human Chain is spangled with Heaney’s inimitable images—in “Mite Box,” each donation is marked on a card with a pinprick, “A way for all to see a way to heaven,” an iambic line so marked with interior assonance that it becomes a line of Anglo-Saxon and, in that, a pilgrimage, a line of illuminated footfalls; and again, in “Derry Derry Down,” the Heaney of milk pails and clotheslines and the hot breath of cattle, “The full of a white / Enamel bucket / Of little pears . . . Still life / I came on / by the scullion’s door.” These are the visions of a lived life on which we’ve learned to rely. In this new book, though, they are by the way; Heaney is focusing his attention on the present rather than chronicling a valedictory past.

We are truly adult when we have behind us the presence of the dead. But they must be our dead.

After the first few books Heaney’s life, the life of the century, took him away from Mossbawn in Country Derry, and his poems of that place—the milk and the laundry, the to and fro—dazzling, indispensable, were cast, bedizened, even, with the light of memory. In this book the earth the spade takes up is as important as what it finds. Even in “Herbal,” based on the Herbier de Bretagne by the Breton poet Eugène Guillevic, the natural descriptions are part of a present reckoning: “I had my existence. I was there / Me in place and the place in me.” In “Loughanure,” in memory of Colin Middleton, one of a dozen individual elegies,

As I drive unhomesick, unbelieving, through
A grant-aided, renovated scene, trying

To remember the Greek word signifying
A world restored completely: that would include
Hannah Mhor’s turkey-chortle of Irish,

The swan at evening over Loch an Iubhair.

The Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg tells us that we are truly adult when we have behind us the presence of the dead. But they must be our dead. As Heaney has grown older he has become less transfixed by the past: he is “unhomesick,” a phrase that brings to mind the German unheimlich. For Heaney to relinquish the past is an uncanny trick, a sign that the before-life can take care of itself. In “Route 110,” which follows Virgil into the underworld but manages at the same time to plot a life from a childhood in the 1950s up to the recent birth of a first grandchild—which the poet attends with his bunch of “stalks and silvered heads / Like tapers that won’t dim”—the past that Heaney recounts is now less sure. Exactly what was seen—“was it only / A surface-ruck and gleam we took for / An otter’s head?” He is less certain of being certain.

The final poem of Human Chain, “A Kite for Aibhin” (after “L’Aguione,” a poem by the nineteenth-century Italian Giovanni Pascoli), is another little story. The poem is a late version of an early one, “A Kite for Michael and Christopher,” which appeared in Station Island. In the earlier poem, the poet hands the kite spool to his children,

take it in your two hands, boys, and feel
the strumming, rooted, long-tailed pull of grief.
You were born fit for it.
Stand here in front of me
and take the strain.

In “A Kite for Aibhin,” written three decades later, a white wing hangs in the air, floating above the stanza. It’s a kite, but a kite that reminds the speaker of another kite, another day. This time, the kite is “a long-tailed comet.” Grief is too close now, too familiar to be named. In the poet’s hand is not a pen or a gun but a kite straining at his grip. His hand is “like a spindle / Unspooling, the kite a thin-stemmed flower.” An echo of the slender vowels of the word “wife,” from “The Skunk,” mutating now not into the earth but into the air. But the string breaks: “separate, elate” (a phrase from Dickinson). Heaney at seventy-five is both the kite—pure spirit—and the kite handler. The last line of the poem, “The kite takes off, itself alone, a windfall,” returns the reader to the opening of Human Chain. The sycamore leaves, loosed by a gust of wind, patter on the roof—something we and the poet would have missed, had he not been awake.

“A WHITE WING IN THE AIR” might be the start of a poem by Derek Walcott, now in his eightieth year, poet of air and water to Heaney’s gloam and earth. Walcott’s new book, White Egrets, comprises fifty-four mostly untitled poems, some in individual sections. All are the product of meditation and long musing. The horizon’s dusky band changes in relation to the poet’s sightline. It is useless to compare the two, but it seems to me that whereas Heaney’s poems are a series of faits accomplis—we enter a Heaney poem—Walcott’s work, persistent, wide-ranging, both lyrical and rhetorical, reports on a world in which he is in turn, and sometimes both at once, comfortable and discomfited. The reasons for this are historical. An early poem, “As John to Patmos” (In A Green Night, 1964), sets down the vision to which he will consistently return:

This island is heaven – away from the dustblown blood of
See the curve of bay, watch the straggling flower, pretty is
The wing’d sound of trees, the sparse-powdered sky.

A place set off from other places, where the flower is “straggling” and trees are filled with birds. Later, in “Codicil” (The Gulf, 1973), the ringing phrase “To change your language you must change your life” leads, a few lines later, to

I am nearing middle
age, burnt skin
peels from my hand like paper, onion-thin
like Peer Gynt’s riddle.

Gynt’s riddle is, of course, both apt and mysterious: “What is it, to be oneself?” In Another Life (1973), Walcott, who by now is Neptune’s scribe, in a long poem, “The Divided Child,” is stationary, looking out from

Verandahs, where the pages of the sea
are a book left open by an absent master
in the middle of another life—
I begin here again,
begin until this ocean’s
a shut book, and like a bulb
the white moon’s filaments wane.

For Walcott, the world he is driven to set down is itself a text that he is at once reading, deciphering, and writing. As we and he know, “The classics can console. But not enough” (“Sea Grapes,” 1976). The story is yet to be written: the answer to the riddle is the language the poet uses to solve it. For Walcott, like Heaney, the pen is at once a tool and a gun, but for Walcott, because the world is a text, the life lived outside the page is exegesis. In “Preparing for Exile” (also from “Sea Grapes”), he asks,

why does my gift already look over its shoulder
for a shadow to fill the door
and pass this very page into eclipse?
Why does the moon increase into an arc-lamp
and the inkstain on my hand prepare to press thumb-downward,
before a shrugging sergeant?

When The Star-Apple Kingdom was published in 1979, it was clear to readers that Walcott was writing at the top of his powers. He seemed to have renounced the struggle, for a time at least, of the “Schizophrenic, wrenched by two styles, / one a hack’s hired prose”(“Codicil”) for the serene promise of another early poem, “The Harbour” (In A Green Night, 1969): “see in me the calm my passage makes / Braving new water in an antique hoax.”

But if the world rhymes with itself, where is the exit?

While Shabine, in “The Schooner Flight,” is “parchment Creole, with warts like an old sea-bottle,” he proclaims: “I had no nation now but the imagination.” I remember closing the book enraptured by the last lines, magicked out of Whitman’s cradle, but Walcott’s alone,

My first friend was the sea. Now, is my last.
I stop talking now. I work, then I read,
cotching under a lantern hooked to the mast.
I try to forget what happiness was,
and when that don’t work, I study the stars.
Sometimes is just me, and the soft-scissored foam
as the deck turn white and the moon open
a cloud like a door, and the light over me
is a road in white moonlight taking me home.
Shabine sang to you from the depths of the sea.

White Egrets is dedicated to a band of Walcott’s friends, among them the younger writers Caryl Phillips and Glyn Maxwell. The book is a handbook of sorts. It begins with a chess game, in which “motion is loss.” By the second page, a wave breaking on a sea wall becomes a cat, scrambling, slipping, gaining and losing purchase, that swiftly, enigmatically, turns into “the heart, coming home / trying to fasten on everything it moved from.” Motion is loss. Reading we learn the truth of it. The fourth poem, one of the few with a title (“White Egrets”), ends with an account of an afternoon in St. Croix with Walcott’s friend Joseph Brodsky and describes in a dozen ways the egrets that perch, disappear, and then heave back into view, and offers in mid-poem, “The perpetual ideal is astonishment.” The egrets share the writer’s instinct,

that ravenous feeding
my pen’s beak, plucking up wriggling insects
like nouns and gulping them, the nib reading
as it writes, shaking off angrily what its beak rejects.

The egrets are Walcott’s favorite beatific white: seraphic—as, the poem concludes, “Joseph was.”

Loss is this book’s rigging: loss of friends, love pursued and lost—“the storm-haired beauty who will disappear. / The shifted absence of your axis”—the future prospect diminishing. In the middle of the maelstrom is the speaker, “an egret-haired viejo," laughing at himself for having lost his heart again. Rather than a book of made poems, this is the voice of the poet thinking aloud. As Lowell said about his “Notebook,” “Accident threw up subjects, and the plot swallowed them, famished for human chances.” Walcott’s subjects are various, spattered. They glint and refract. Pages later, the chessboard in the first poem appears as a checkered tablecloth in “The Sweet Life Cafe,” over which the poet drifts in “grizzled stillness”; the fever grass on the road to Vieufort is white, as are the bougainvilleas which have been whitened by a freak snow at Zermatt, as white as an alp that looks exactly like Petit Piton, one of the two mountains overlooking Soufriere Bay, in southwest St. Lucia (“20”).

my craft and my craft’s thoughts make parallels
from every object, the word and the shadow of the word
makes a thing both itself and something else
till we are metaphors and not ourselves
in an empirical language that keeps growing
associations so astute they frighten

Why “frighten us”? One of Walcott’s repeated images is the cage. In “Sicilian Suite,” a blackbird beats its wings on a glass window “as if it were searching for a cage that / calms like my mind with its pitiful searching for an exit / from itself,” a cage whose bars are often multiplied by sunlight that turns them into shadow stripes. But if the world rhymes with itself, where is the exit? If the alp is a mountain in St. Lucia, where can the poet locate himself? It is Peer Gynt’s question, repeated by doppelgängers in a hall of mirrors. The poet himself “whitens” in the last line of the poem above, bleaching into the page on which the poem is written.

In a poem toward the end of White Egrets, the subject is a tanker anchored in the middle of a channel. Before long, Walcott lets out the line of the poem until “each ghostly tanker is a young man’s dream of flight, adrift in all the ports of the world / where he has left his name scrawled on a beach.”

To age, Walcott tells us in this immensely moving book, is to see yourself coming and going. I will try to leave Walcott without quoting the whole of the first poem from “White Egrets,” which I read, in The New York Review of Books, before the book came out; the volume’s penultimate verse begins, as so many of his poems could, “The hulls of white yachts riding the orange water of the marina at dusk.” There are boats. The very hour is orange. He continues,

                                        the light reads like Dante,
three lines at a time, their symmetrical tension,
quiet bars rippling from the Paradiso
as a dinghy writes lines made by the scanty
metre of its oar strokes.

The poem is a fugue: the boats, the orange light, the lines the dinghy writes in the water crosshatch Dante’s triplets; a couple sits on a pier after many decades together, the light is green—no more needs to be said. There again is the “steady arc lamp,” the early image of the moon that, because he has already named it for us, guiding our hand as we turn to the last page, doesn’t need to be named.

THIS YEAR also brings
Selected Poems of Amy Clampitt, edited by the poet Mary Jo Salter. Clampitt’s Collected Poems, with a foreword by Salter, appeared in 1997, just three years after her death; a selected Clampitt is a good idea, and Salter, who was a close friend of Campitt’s, is an experienced editor—with Jon Stallworthy and Margaret Ferguson she edited the fifth and sixth editions of The Norton Anthology of Poetry—who has done her job. Clampitt’s late, brilliant oeuvre (her first book, The Kingfisher, was published when she was sixty-three) was remarkable in its breadth and quantity; this book, which culls Clampitt’s lesser work and will make her poems more easily accessible to new readers, serves her well. Unlike Heaney and Walcott, who make and unmake the world, respectively, Clampitt was a visionary collector: of sunsets, birds, sea glass, the hectic lives of composers and poets, of ragweed more than orchids, a protector and curator of the heedless and vagabond. As a person she was trenchant, given to enthusiasms, and brave. She put one in mind of a nineteenth-century heroine; her poems are curio cabinets, with undertones of pathos (why that? you find yourself asking, and then hear her agreeing, her voice part Delphic, part schoolmistress, high-pitched, herself). Almost all Clampitt’s poems, by virtue of fact, are late, or latish, which may account for their feeling of urgency: once she got started, there was so much to do and say.

One gossamer line follows another, like bands of ghostly sisters.

While all of Clampitt’s work is indebted to Marianne Moore—the first stanza in the first poem of The Kingfisher (1983) recounts, “when there’s a fog / or a gale, we get a fire going, listen to Mozart, read Marianne Moore”—Moore’s influence on Clampitt’s last book, A Silence Opens (1994), is profound. We hear her terse echo (for Moore is terse) everywhere, in a list of place names,

the Rappahannock, the Roanoke, the Potomac,
and that commemoration of sometime
    majesty, the James,                                                [“Matoaka”]

and in the nouns hem-stitching together a description of Winchester,

Continuity of the windborne,
the rooted: reassurance of the made,
the handed down, the durable: glyph
and vesper bell, trodden cloister and
walled playing field.                                            [“Eighty-Nine”]

But what Clampitt also gleaned from Moore, I think, was the strength of the negative. In “Sed de Correr,” in which César Vallejo, Federico García Lorca, Virginia Woolf, Franz Kafka, and Rainer Maria Rilke (“Who will hear?” he wonders) are invoked, Clampitt comes to ground on West Twelfth Street, where an ash tree is dying. The final sentences are severe, formal, Jonsonian.

The axe is laid
at the root of the ash tree. The leaves of dispersal,
the runaway pages, surround us. Who
will hear? Who will gather
them in? Who will read them?

The last poem in A Silence Opens (“A Silence”) is a radical paring down. Like Bishop’s “Sonnet” (“Caught—the bubble / in the spirit level” which turns into “the rainbow-bird / from thenarrow bevel”), and Heaney’s elated kite, there are echoes of Dickinson’s urgent need to be both present and gone, to discover a silence, as Clampitt writes here, “past parentage or gender / beyond sung vocables.”

Gjertrud Schnackenberg’s new book, Heavenly Questions, asks, How do the living live on after a death that defines? This is Schnackenberg’s first book in a decade—The Throne of Labdacus won the Los Angeles Book Prize in 2000—and her first since the death of her husband, the philosopher Robert Nozick. The book is lapidary. Its blank-verse lines are at once elusive and twinned. Despite its voluble helixes, it is as much about silence as it is about speech. Schnackenberg is a Penelope, spinning, though she knows incontrovertibly that no voyager comes back from the land of the dead. One gossamer line follows another, like bands of ghostly sisters. The beloved’s relics turn numinous. In “The Light-Gray Soil” the description of a penny—“Surely the last he touched, now briefly mine / A token of our parting blindly kept”—lasts twenty lines, from its minting to her last touch of the raised motto. The book is full of talismans—the penny, a coat; she must be clothed, death has orphaned her, she has worn away her shoes and her stockings, “seeing the house / Where no beloved person ever died.” Schnackenberg’s “light-gray soil” (“O beggar, I have seen the light-gray soil. My begging hand lies near”) brings to mind Lowell’s “My Last Afternoon with Uncle Devereux Winslow”: “My hands were warm, / then cool, on the piles / of earth and lime // a black pile and a white pile . . . // Come winter, Uncle Devereux would blend to the one color.”

There is no one in her generation to equal Schnackenberg’s control of the blank-verse line, nor to match her technical abilities. Even here, the breath in that line is hers. In Heavenly Questions, the sound is what she herself describes as “bindings falling from a swaddled drum.” The transfixed speech is Una’s, from Spenser’s Faerie Queene. There are hints of an answering retort—the waking to life that Heaney describes, equivalent prints of the sycamore leaves patterning the roof: a chessboard hastily upset in the poem “Bedtime Mahabharata”; “A ship, reduced to ashes by a mirror” in the opening poem, “Archimedes Lullaby.” In the poem “Sublimaze,” there is a door “crazed with knocking.” There are six poems in this book. We await more.

Cynthia Zarin is the author of, most recently, Two Cities: Essays on Venice and Rome. Next Day, New and Selected Poems will be published next year.
Originally published:
April 1, 2011


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