Plumly (English/Univ. of Maryland) has published six prior volumes. Here he includes new as well as previously published work, collected in reverse chronological order and covering the span of three decades. The poems proceed diminuendo rather than crescendo from his matured style to his origins, and the effect is cumulative (much like the numerous snowfalls he describes) rather than astonishing. Seldom does anything appear in full light. Plumly gains our attention slowly and subtly, preferring patient layering to the drama of sharp relief (as when he portrays his gravely ill parents with "skeletal skin so ghostly it seemed they'd already gone"). Plumly's landscapes, for all their underpinnings in concrete detail, seem at times like sets in a Fellini movie: softly falling snow, birds, suicides, and blossoming red roses, with flashes of insight that burn the retinas and leave an afterimage even more surreal. Though only slightly less lyrical than poems from the same period, there are several short prose passages that create as strong an impression of time and place as anything in literature. Particularly poignant are Plumly's childhood recollections of his father's lifelong drinking career—precisely because Plumly's father appears as a decent man. He is but one of the recurring characters "cloistered in the space of their own wounding."
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