The epigraph for this first book (from Marianne Moore's ""What Are Years?"") begins: ""So he who strongly feels,/ behaves.""...

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HUNDREDS OF FIREFLIES

The epigraph for this first book (from Marianne Moore's ""What Are Years?"") begins: ""So he who strongly feels,/ behaves."" And Leithauser certainly does, for a Young poet, behave himself: there's not an untoward move made in the entire collection. Some of the poems consist of hungrily accumulative image-clusters: ""Clouds with firm edges, held by/ stormy centers, spin their forms/ under a perpetual flash,/ greaser-fire ring of light; sun far/ too bright, another blindness,/ burns through uncluttered distance/ from a high place without clouds."" Others are Moore-ish animal sketches--of a Venus flytrap, a mosquito, or the fireflies of the title poem. (""Merely/ to watch, and say nothing,/ gratefully,/ is what is best,/ is what we need."") And there are some equally Moore-ish maxims (coyly tagged ""Minims""), such as the one called ""Advice to a Small Child"": ""Don't abandon castles in the sand./ Build them lower, closer to land."" Only in ""Two Summer Jobs,"" in fact, does candor win out over moderation--resulting in autobiographical verse a la L. E. Sissman that engagingly reveals Leithauser's tender age (along with some nice metrics and rhyme). Everywhere else the posture is almost grotesque in its gentility: conservative, ever in proportion and quietly modulated. And while some readers will find Leithauser laudably civilized--his eye has potential, his ear is frequently delicate--others will be thoroughly put off by the lack of reach and by the sense of a spirit so held-back as to seem almost stunted.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 1981

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1981