In ""The Hen Flower,"" Kinnell wonders, ""is it/ the hen's nightmare, or her secret dream,/ to scratch the ground forever/...

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THE BOOK OF NIGHTMARES

In ""The Hen Flower,"" Kinnell wonders, ""is it/ the hen's nightmare, or her secret dream,/ to scratch the ground forever/ eating the minutes out of the grains of sand,"" thus suggesting his own ambivalence about living and dying. Mortality for him is no simple thing: there are extensions beyond death when, in a killed hen, he discovers ""unborn eggs, each getting/ tinier and yellower as it reaches back to the icy pulp of what is. . ."" or when his feet re-enliven ghostly footsmells in secondhand shoes. These are reflective poems in which the author is directly, intensely present. One recognizes his easily irregular forms, the images of body-rag and bone beneath the flesh, and the humane concern which leads him occasionally (and relatively unsuccessfully) to treat political themes. He makes himself most clearly felt, however, in such poems as ""The Hen Flower"" and ones addressed to a child named Maud -- ""Under the Maud Moon"" and ""Little Sheep's Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight"" -- where image and idea are fused with a singularly personal immediacy. Consummately lyrical language sometimes inadvertently beautifies real pain, but this is -- giving the adjective full value -- a beautiful collection.

Pub Date: May 25, 1971

ISBN: 0395120985

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1971