LIFE AMONG OTHERS by Daniel Halpern


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For poet Daniel Halpern, life among others is equally as difficult as life alone. Conversation sounds to him like clams in a bucket, waiting for the herbs and spices that will turn them into moules marinieres, opening and shutting their mouths (their shells)restlessly. ""There is only the sun rising--/ every day the same/ over the same details/ of earth/ at exactly the right moment--/ rising."" One is tempted to ask: would Halpern rather it didn't? The epigraphs in the book are from the Japanese poet Yukio Mishima (""My solitude grew more and more obese, like a pig""), Kafka, and Italo Calvino, and the echoes axe sometimes from Arnold or T. S. Eliot, sometimes from Mark Strand. It is easy to make fun of the psychoanalyzed poets now fashionable; if communication is so difficult, why don't they just shut up? And the echoes, for Common Reader, are often comical. But one shouldn't dismiss Daniel Halpern too fast. He is writing about the fear of commitment that is a fact of modern life; his theme is loneliness, his effort (stumbling) is towards detachment and self-protection. If you just sit very still, Wisdom will come to you. The trouble is that sitting still is the hardest thing to achieve. Halpern's gift as a poet is a very good ear, so that he often persuades. ""It is no dream that the white train shunts/ within the chant of night,"" and, handsomest of all: ""the lights across the Straits have begun to appear./ The bats have begun to feed, and the starlings,/ in a frenzy, circle, and float home.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1978
Publisher: Viking