Lowell's latest collection--the shortest he has given us, and, in some ways, the slightest--marks a number of significant...

READ REVIEW

NEAR THE OCEAN

Lowell's latest collection--the shortest he has given us, and, in some ways, the slightest--marks a number of significant consolidations and expansions. The prevalent theme, (certainly in the opening sections), is the fundamental Lowellian one of temporality of ""Time and the grindstone and the knife of God""; but the opposing forces--innocence and corruption, liberation and constriction--seem to be presented less as interior struggles than as outer grapplings with contemporary ills: the poet as public gladiator scorning the President's ""ghost-written rhetoric,"" the metropolitan Pharaohs whose ""plunder and bold leaf/only served to draw the thief,"" ""a stringy policeman"" counting ""his bullets like beads."" These images, along with a few Yeatsian flourishes (""tools with no handle/ten candle-ends not worth a candle""), while stark are also somewhat thin, and most of the poems take on power principally through Lowell's remarkable technical energy, usually suggesting a fusion of the aggressive metrics of Lord Weary's Castle and the supple, depressurized stance of his later work. The magnificent ""Fourth of July in Maine,"" for instance, not only offers a formal off-couplet structure, but something too of the wry, idiomatic tenderness of Life Studies, and, in the concluding stanzas (""Man's poorest cousins, harmonies...""), more than a hint of the rueful beauty of Lowell's Villon ""imitations."" Two of the ""imitations"" here are among the most stunning of Lowell's achievements: the exquisitely modulated Ser Brunetto episode from Dante and the sardonic majesty of Juvenal's Tenth Satire, a microcosm of worldly folly, past or present. Souped-up emotions and a strangely compulsive over-reaching sadly tend to mar the volume and stifle the full flowering of Lowell's genius.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 1966

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1966