NOTHING FOR TIGERS by Hayden Carruth


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Carruth's rhymes are frequently awkward (""chrism/absolutism"") or crude (""'Darling put away your watch'...lapped at throat and crotch""). His ear isn't much better: ""Time slope and slop and slew the ark awry"" sounds like an alliterative parody. His adjectives are often strained; his verbs can be unfortunate (""Seconds puke with change""). He offers many styles, both in a formal sense (a terza rima, couplets, quatrains, epigrams, a sonnet, free verse), and in a tonal one (""A Pseudo-Prayer"" is certainly a reworking of Yeats' poem to his daughter; ""The Cheat"" is singsong Lewis Carroll; other pieces echo Hardy or Dickinson at one end, Rexroth or Lowell or Frank O'Hara at the other). His themes range from romantic and domestic love to philosophic or religious brooding, from nature studies and cityscapes to the anecdotal. His stance is a sort of heroic existential defense against the everyday harassments ("" invent our lives from these great days of woe""). The lyrics are pleasing enough, and two or three of the longer poems have a manly elegance and flashes of intellectual excitement. But in general everything tends to collapse midway. This is his fifth collection since 1959, so perhaps it would be better if he lay fallow for a while. He wrote the recent After the Stranger, a far more rewarding novelistic fantasia about Albert Camus and himself.

Publisher: Macmillan