paper 0-226-49247-8 From the author of a handful of distinguished academic studies of modern poetry (Stone Cottage: Pound, Yeats, and Modernism, 1988, etc.), a debut collection that's surprisingly direct and fresh-sounding, and bears none of the heavy allusiveness one might expect from this Univ. of Rochester professor. Which is not to say that Longenbach isn—t high-minded and, at times, relentlessly abstract, but his crisp phrasing and thematic consistency make this a volume worth sticking with: his meanings accrue with each poem. Meditative and often somber, Longenbach's measured verse explores the boundaries between human and spiritual existence, between man and nature, between parent and child, and between the everyday and the transcendent. He neatly avoids sentimentality in a number of poems on children: "The Origin of Angels" lingers on his daughter's sleeping form; "Play with Me" records a painful test of wills; and two poems (—A Dog, a Horse, a Rat" and "The Possibilities—) imagine the worst—the loss of a child. Longenbach's unabashed domesticity leads him to contemplate its foundation in houses: a burglary disturbs by what the burglar leaves behind (—Burglary—), how "real," he wonders, is real estate (—Real Estate—), and a burnt-out house reveals a randomness (—Any House You Know—). Prominent among the book's thresholds are rites of passage—the transgressions of childhood, love's first treacheries—as well as the desire to escape solitude through the stories of others. Longenbach's wonderfully circular "Threshold of the Visible World" exemplifies his keen metaphysic: all in all, an impressive debut.
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