That this is Lowell, the reader isn't likely to mistake. Again we're plunked down into the front row for a minute yet...

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That this is Lowell, the reader isn't likely to mistake. Again we're plunked down into the front row for a minute yet elegant witnessing of the poet's painful personal drama: ""heightened from life,/yet paralyzed by fact."" In this first book of new poems since 1973, an anxious narrative organization begins with autumnal addresses to old friends and wives--poems to Peter Taylor, Robert Penn Warren, Jean Stafford: ""Our loyalty to one another sticks like love""--and moves into poems that perch fearfully over the facts of age and death. Then a group, by far the best in the book, about marriage and memory--""Grass Fires,"" ""Suburban Surf,"" and especially ""Seesaw,"" a jewel-focuses Lowell's imagination and bears it aloft: they're poems of desperation and moving sympathy. The last section deals with the poet's most recent breakdown--""I alone here tonight on Antabuse"" recalling the earlier and famous line, ""Tamed by Miltown, we lie on Mother's bed""--and ends with a tone of recovery and ever so slight a shadow of hope. Lowell's insistent method testifies to an integrity beyond facile styling, but all its pocks and pits still stand out. His gravity looks like grace--but truly is it? Too many of the poems have a chewy, sluggard quality; they ruminate only to spit out a seed, usually an epigram--""A man without a wife/is like a turtle without a shell""--and then have trouble starting up again. Perhaps Lowell, in his mood of valediction, has made peace with the entropy that saturates this book. A reader may be less ready to do so.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1977

ISBN: 0374514712

Page Count: -

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1977