by Charles North ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 15, 1998
A collection of casual ruminations, appreciations, and diaristic essays from a longtime New York poet/advocate. In these pieces treating of the poetry (or prose) of James Schuyler, Elizabeth Bishop, John Hollander, Joseph Ceravolo, Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery, and artists including Fairfield Porter, Trevor Winkfield, and Edith Schloss, North (New & Selected Poems, 1998, etc.) comes across as that likeably easygoing fellow we've all met at parties who, upon prolonged exposure, reveals himself to be more dogmatic in his tastes than was first suspected. Readers who share North's bent or who are curious to learn more of the New York School have something to gain from his devoted yet not uncritical insider's view ("". . . it strikes me that Ashbery is one of the most self-indulgent writers who ever lived""). Others will find that for them his chosen range is too narrow. North will not persuade the unconverted when he praises a poetics capable of producing verse as ostentatiously terrible as ""I have a death rattle in my nose I have summer in my/brain water/l have dreams in my toes"" from Koch's ""The Art of Love,"" which lines North calls both ""strong"" and ""moving."" At times, he is too much the apologist, as when North notes, ""In the fifties when Ashbery began, one of the things left to do was to leave out. In the climate of serious, high-toned and academic verse that had poetry gasping for air, it was left to be . . . anti-academic and irreverent like the poets in New York."" These latter poets' experiments with sense would later also leave some poetry aficionados gasping. North's emphasis on poetry's pure sensory appeal, his shrewd sensitivity to play as a necessary poetic impulse, and his general resistance to the scholarly establishment are all potentially refreshing. But the author tests our patience and sometimes wastes his critical faculties on poems unworthy of either.
Pub Date: July 15, 1998
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Hanging Loose
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998
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