paper 0-87451-956-X A co-winner of this year's Bread Loaf award for first books of poetry, Tobin (Carthage College) has also written a study of Seamus Heaney, whose influence here is negligible, except for two poems: one describing a calf being born in Ireland; another, —A Field of Bones,— presenting its —bleached remnants of cow.— These stand out in a volume mostly about Tobin's Irish Catholic childhood in Brooklyn, a humorless history that's self-dramatizing and gripes as much as it romanticizes. And of course there's lots of death-dwelling and considerations of —the flesh.— Tobin collects a number of neighborhood profiles: the troll-like neighbor who grows tomatoes in a tiny plot outside the apartment house (—The Farmer—); the local bully who comes to naught in adult life (—Weasel Kane—); the pedophile priest loved by the parishioners (—A Passion—); and a weightlifter with a —barbaric yawp— (——The Withness of the Body——). Much of the volume is taken up with two long sequences in which Tobin shores up the ruins of his past. The twenty poems in —The Son's Book——anecdotal and episodic—recall the speaker's mother washing his hair, his father working around the house, the Catholic imagery of his schooldays, riding car bumpers over the ice, throwing garbage down the incinerator, nocturnal emissions, first sex, an abortion. Another long sequence, —Stations,— adds up to less than its skimpy parts: snippets on the sacraments and other Catholic rites of childhood. Tobin seldom shapes his memories into anything beyond themselves, making them of interest mainly to cultural tourists of Catholic Brooklyn.
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