The fifth book by this Univ. of Houston professor still finds him groping for subject and style and, in this case, coming up...

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ON LOVE

The fifth book by this Univ. of Houston professor still finds him groping for subject and style and, in this case, coming up with easy forms to match an equally facile, schoolboyish scheme: to imagine what 20 or so writers from the past have to say about love. Hirsch has indulged such sentimentality in previous volumes, and here the scholarly patina barely disguises the comic-book sense of literary history in which artists are reduced to a series of textbook clichÆ’s: Diderot mentions reason, enlightenment, and encyclopedias; Heine refers to himself as a ""cripple"" and ""a formidable intellect"" of his time; Baudelaire links pain to pleasure; Wilde identifies himself as a ""strolling peacock;"" and Brecht provides a Marxist gloss on romance. In one of the few poems that sounds a bit like its author (Gertrude Stein), Hirsch has her sum up improbably: ""all of us are astonished by love."" In poems not from this workshop-like sequence, Hirsch pays homage to all the right poets-Dickinson, Hart Crane, Whitman-but there's not the slightest anxiety from these influences, nor is there any depth to his equation of sex and religion. His pop gnosticism leaves him touched by angels, but not by the demands of craft: monotonous forms, which rely on repeated lines or end-words, drone on. Hirsch's true muse, unstated, seems to be McCartney and Lennon, who told us with much less to-do: ""all you need is love.

Pub Date: June 10, 1998

ISBN: 0375702601

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998