HOUSE OF DAYS by Jay Parini


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Novelist, critic, and Steinbeck biographer, Parini channels the ""ancestral voices"" of Wordsworth, Emerson, Roethke, and Robert Penn Warren in this fourth volume of verse, which reminds us of nature's transience and rues the imperfect relation between objects, words, and tropes. Inscribing himself in the natural world, Parini ponders simple creatures (foxes, mice, sparrows, and frogs) in sunny and moonlit skies and seeks a more complex wilderness within the self. The title sequence, a monthly calendar of poems, captures in its ""web of words"" the ""daily turns"" that sustain the poet through silence and slow time. Parini's autobiographical poems recall the Pennsylvanian mining country of his youth, the black hills near Scranton, and his grandmothers. But his best work travels far from his leafy concerns: a poem about Pasolini's rough trade (""Street Boys""); a philosophical chat with Isaiah Berlin (""A Conversation in Oxford""); and two poems that capture dusky moments on the Amalfi Coast. The strongest piece of all engages Emerson directly, providing the perfect coda to Parini's metaphysics of nature, as well as a fine antidote to ""the hackneyed rhythms we were born to sing.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
Page count: 96pp
Publisher: Henry Holt