THE MUSIC by Helen Wolfert


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This volume of poetry leaves a nearly overwhelming impression of delicacy, of fragility, of preciousness. In the short poems, the meter takes over from the theme and lines seem strung together on alliterative toothpicks -- ""The rufous is russet, the bullion is rust/And mustard and mournful and shards and shale/And now is now, now is this."" The two longer pieces are the best, each composed of many sections whole in themselves, but enlarging upon the central theme. The first, ""The Poems of the Gong,"" is in the metaphysical rhythm of an Oriental chant, celebrating the one as the many, the many as the one -- the evolution of the spirit. ""Oh you whom I love/They have heard you these million years."" And the second, ""The Music of the Tell,"" builds an ode to both the discovery of and the past to be discovered in the archaeological excavation of a Middle Eastern site (the tell). ""I ask I ask/In your wild of love/Here now here/where the broken, the broken gather and fuss, I ask/Not to be rent, to be woven not I ask..."" In these two pieces, the music reaches to poetry -- in the rest, the musical strand is stronger and seemingly leaves the poet behind in traditional verse schemes that sound well, read well, but neglect the plain power of words. Pleasant poetics.

Publisher: Norton