HYMN TO LIFE by James Schuyler


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Although this collection lacks some of the brilliant conciseness of grace and insight of Freely Espousing and The Crystal Lithium, the poems here are more accessible, immediate in their impact, less afraid to directly express emotion. This increased openness is most evident in the section of love poems, which often become somewhat gooey for comfort (""In/ moon terms, you're/ not so far away. We/see the same sky/ and night""), even banal in their lack of aesthetic distance (""What/ if boredom should/ set in? On your/ side, not on mine""). His best poems are, as always, his long nature works, which wander easily between philosophic speculation (both abstract -- ""Life, I do not understand, The/ Days tick by, each so unique, each so alike"" and specific -- ""And that same blue jay returns, or/ perhaps/ It is another. All jays are one to me"") and idiosyncratic observations, often humorous in their unexpected conjunctions with the sublime: ""No one is at his best with/ A sinus headache."" He is sometimes zanily crazy, although an occasional note of forced spontaneity (usually evinced by a plethora of exclamation points) pushes its way through imitated ecstasy. But on the whole this (s)lightness is refreshingly offhand: ""Have another helping of blue snow./ Starch, what have you got to say for yourself?. Please don't argue with the egg-timer."" A fine book by one of America's most interesting poets.

Pub Date: March 25th, 1974
Publisher: Random House