TRUE NORTH by Fred Johnston


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The author of three previous books of poetry and a study of Irish writing, this Alfred University professor turns to Ireland again as the scene for this verse novella, a long psychological portrait of its narrator, a middle-aged American lexicographer who heads to Ireland during WW II in order to sort out his recent divorce. In supple rhythms, Howard shares the —earthy consonants and liquid vowels— of the Irishmen he marvels at, with their —predilections/For whiskey and horses— and their —cunning indolents and outright rogues.— With one section for each of the six years abroad, the narrator admires the Irish neutrality in war and natural sense of tragedy. Suffering himself from an affliction —Which causes Iowans to see the world/as more coherent than it really is,— this boozy American —invader— tries to reconcile the stern moralizing of his parents—remembered at the oddest moments—with his evolving sense of —instinct, chance, and circumstance— as the forces ruling his life. The —moral dread— of his past relaxes in the —bitter, eremitic joy— of monastic contemplation, and he finds —consolation in a landscape.— The —bungled life— of Howard’s troubled lexicographer makes for an entertaining poem—compensating for its lack of narrative drive with simple psychic truths.

Pub Date: March 19th, 1998
ISBN: 1-897648-80-4
Page count: 88pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1998