POEMS OLD AND NEW: 1918-1978 by Janet Lewis

POEMS OLD AND NEW: 1918-1978

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Lewis, novelist (author of the justly lauded The Wife of Martin Guerre, among others) and the wife of Yvor Winters, began as an Imagist: slightly mannered (in her needless repetition of stark lines) but also so fully warm to her primary subject--American Indian themes--that she nonetheless achieved a certain limpidness. The early-Lewis standouts in this present gathering, all of them sharply faceted: ""Anishinabeg in the Cranberry Swamp"" (""Their baskets fill/With berries green as water,/Their fingers cut/With searching the high grass""); ""Ojibway Village"" (""And the night like ice./ Cuts color and odor/Like flowers under a sickle./ These bodies, so still/ In the deluge/ Of fine air""); ""One Sits in the Woods""; ""The Rocky Islands""; and ""The Reader."" In the Thirties, strict meter took over and ruled Lewis' work; these poems are perfect yet lifeless cameos. But even in them, the deliberation of the sensibility is exemplary--as in ""Country Burial"": ""For heaven is a blinding radiance where/Leaves are no longer green nor water wet,/ Milk white, soot black, nor winter weather cold,/ And the eyeless vision of the Almighty Face/ Brings numbness to the untranslatable heart."" And then, in the Seventies, after a 30-year hiatus, Lewis' poetry begins again, returning to the Indian themes (""Awatobi"") and producing, too, an extraordinary digest of visual registration called ""Geometries."" Through all these style shifts, Lewis' poems are discrete, musical, rock-solid--and unfashionable; but this collection of them will slowly yet tightly draw a discriminating audience.

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1981
ISBN: 0804003726
Publisher: Swallow Press--dist. by Ohio Univ. Press