GOODWILL, INC. by Dennis Schmitz


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This is a slim volume by a very inward poet for whom events seem to exist mainly as moral outposts in an almost allegorical world. But the referent is not theology, but biology, an obsessive harkening back to the primordial part of man that once was fish--it's there that Schmitz believes true knowledge resides. To him, as to the metaphysicians, the skin is a cage, a trap: ""two-thirds water/ we wander finger & arm/ into our flesh."" Nearly all his imagery uses fish: ""genitals/ that float like the air bladders/ behind the fish's gills""; ""the eyes are the first thing the fish go for."" Bones are ""strange scrimshaw,"" the soul a ""fossilized handprint of the placenta."" Unlike Michael McClure, however, his view of man's biological and chemical history is not ennobling; Schmitz drags us not upward to the stars, but back toward the sea. The book is divided into three sections (""Chicago,"" ""California,"" ""Geography"") but these titles are misleading: this is an author who carries his landscape with him. The poems are about the self, yet totally impersonal; the ""you"" to whom many of them are addressed is also disembodied, perhaps even another aspect of the poet himself. Schmitz at times seems obscure and self-indulgent, but the poems do evoke a strong, grim vision.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1976
Publisher: Ecco Press--dist. by Viking