THE STRENGTH OF FIELDS
In a mode similar to that of his last book, Zodiac--the translation of a shipwrecked Dutchman's mad musing--many of these poems are Dickey's own sprawling, slightly mad narratives. Many are recollections: of his days as a WW II pilot, ". . . that Southern Cross/ Had the most delicious lungs/ For me. We'd jumped out of our hole/ On wings"; of his childhood: "Like the trembling north-nerve of a compass,/ On surface tension, that magic, like a mother's spell/ Cast in sharp seed in your childhood. . . ." He sees his life today with the same dreamy intensity, and with a mock-macho humor he makes an awkward "middle-aged hippie" appearance in a barbershop; he sings a Whitman-like paean to the New York City marathon: "The herd-hammering pulse of our sneakers/. . . O my multitude." The second part of the collection consists of translations (what he unfortunately, but not inaccurately, calls "Free-Flight Improvisations from the un-English"), two of which, "The Ax-God: Sea Pursuit--After Alfred Jarry--" and "Poem--from the Finnish of Saima Harmaja," are lovely and unusual. Dickey's poetry is characteristically excited and sloppy, short on sense and beautiful to the ear, which perhaps explains his popularity. This is a pleasant, sometimes inspired, new collection.