STANDING WATCH by Christopher Bursk


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Herein, a sentimental journey through a singularly dull life--presumably that of the author. Constant contact with slack similes and ordinary imagery gives a sense of being on a treadmill in terms of language and vision, as in the case of ""Root Darkness"" where "" . . . He felt like a seed in a seed's trance. . . ."" is immediately followed by "". . . What would his father think of him, dreamy as clematis/ floating off trellises? as seeds clinging/ to each other like girls waiting to be asked to dance? . . ."" Not only do constructions like this undermine the power of individual lines, but they do so by mixing metaphors which reduce the overall effect to clichÉ. There are poems about hands with all the fingers named, boyhood fears, parents, grandparents, siblings--subjects, every one of them, in need of rescue from their most obvious and overused contexts. They do not find such rescue here. In Bursk's own words (from the poem ""Playing Little""): "". . . He shivers, moves back into his own body,/ upstairs lets others have him,/ yielding to larger hands than his own."" The image helps to keep this maudlin book in perspective.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1978
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin