ALL ROADS AT ONCE by Alfred Corn


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After modern poetry consigned regular scansion to the wastebasket, the form came under another, more stringent injunction to be ""charged with meaning"" and to be absolutely precise. This first collection by a young poet meanders, sashays and assumes a series of poetic posturings that hardly amount to poems at all. Many pretensions, few surprises. We have a witless ""Letter from Madame de Sevigne""; a look at ""A Print by Fairfield Porter,"" and later a Corot, which are blurs; an examination of ""Chinese Porcelains"" at the Met which tells us ""for once I really looked,"" lists their colors and intones ""Meaning is only a moment/ Contained; but form is legion""; also a pilgrimage to Brooklyn Bridge where ""Hart"" is invoked as the poet's brother. Here are some of Corn's thoughts on books: ""So much of what we consume is trash, dust-jackets dazzling us from knowing it. . . I'm sure conservationists disapprove. . . All of them want to be bought, just like animals in the pet store. . . No doubt some good things get passed over."" And this is his idea of wordplay: ""'Cheap!' he [an English sparrow] says, imported goods maybe, like himself."" Or a ""grim fairy tale."" Or people eating their lunches ""sandwiched together"" on benches. Many of these poems feature Art, Mr. Corn's personal handmaiden, but even she can do nothing for a poet who has nothing to say. It ought to be perfectly clear to anyone with a sense of direction that All Roads at Once is nowhere.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Viking