HOW TO DO THINGS WITH TEARS by Allen Grossman

HOW TO DO THINGS WITH TEARS

A Book of Poems
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Billed by its “Low Modern” author as a “HOW TO” book, this collection is presented as the “autobiography of the SIGHTED SINGER, the American poet who has dreamed the dream of the poet’s vocation.” Unfortunately, it looks like he could only daydream about conjuring any actual poetry. Grossman’s idea of a poem is an assemblage of stanzas shaved line by line from blocks of dense intellectual prose, creating verse so vapid, repetitive, and pointless that it could be construed as profound if only these head-births meant something. As embellishments to what needs none, he tosses in truisms and trite expressions, paraphrased in order to appear original. Thus we have “the hour before dawn, the darkest one” and “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.” Deepest of all is this prize: “Sex is better than death although not so easy to come by.” He sprinkles in the right number of French, German, Latin, and Italian phrases to complete the illusion of erudition, then translates them just in case his readers are the unlearned lunkheads he suspects. The poet speaks of an “aged pensioner” and a “boat of some kind,” but these are neither a real person nor a seaworthy vessel, and it’s doubtful Grossman ever encountered either. They are merely clichés, abstractions begotten by other abstractions, intellectual exercises kneaded into the Wonder Bread of Poetry.

The poet recommends staring “a dog intently in the eye, any dog! It may recite an astounding poem to you.” That’s certainly more likely than finding one here.

Pub Date: April 26th, 2001
ISBN: 0-8112-1464-8
Page count: 112pp
Publisher: New Directions
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2001