MERMAIDS EXPLAINED by Christopher Reid

MERMAIDS EXPLAINED

Poems 1976-1996

KIRKUS REVIEW

Reid’s first collection published in the US includes work selected from all five of his British volumes edited by friend and fellow poet Simic, who also contributed the introduction. The tone is set early on (“A Holiday from Strict Reality”) when the poet declares that “Everything that we see in this gilded paradise is ours to make use of.” This attitude borrows much from John Donne and other English metaphysical poets whom Reid is reputed to admire. No object or event is too insignificant, especially once animated by the spark of poetic imagination, and each is presented as a “sacrament of the mind.” One particularly delightful entry portrays a young girl’s discovery of echoes and her “squealing to make the brickwork tingle.” There is musicality, if not exactly music, in such descriptions, and the author’s work abounds in similar raptures that are both accessible and intense. Elsewhere he depicts a tavern brawl as though it were a mating ritual between members of some “grim, antiquatedly armored species.” In every instance, Reid elevates the commonplace, making it not only seem more than it is, but also providing the reader with the means whereby it can be viewed in this altered light. His work is more than a series of dull intellectual exercises, however. The poems are also imbued with humor, especially when he takes aim at pomposity or the crudeness of modern life.

A welcome excursion away from realities of everyday life that, like all good vacations, makes the return to our ordinary world less mundane.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-15-100106-5
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2001




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