THE QUALITY OF LIGHT IN ALABAMA by Jerry Hoffman

THE QUALITY OF LIGHT IN ALABAMA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

More than 170 lyric poems, ranging from the anecdotal to the existential.

If the title of Hoffman’s first collection of verse bears any relation to its contents, the quality of light in the Heart of Dixie must be variable, since the poems assembled here cover a broad spectrum of poetic styles and subjects, to differing degrees of success. Though the volume’s opening piece advises, “The Past is not a place. / You can’t go there for breakfast,” many of the poems that follow attempt to concretize various states of being by employing imagery from nature, common stylistic devices like end rhyme and traditional forms such as the sonnet and villanelle. Some works brimming with allusiveness reveal Hoffman’s allegiance to poetic masters like Eliot, Milton and Yeats; others, such as “Untitled Binge,” with its light homage to Budweiser, Guinness and merlot, aim to capture a more popular sentiment. What this poet’s high and lowbrow styles share is a proclivity toward sometimes predictable maxims. For instance, in the short poem “Miraculous…”, Hoffman comments on “how the sun comes up just for us / no matter who, no matter where. / There’s a lesson there …” but stops just shy of convincing wryness. Likewise, “The Church on the Hill” lulls the reader to sleep with endless strings of bland prepositional phrases: “Now he stood as he had on the steps of the church / In the smile of the sun ’neath the blue of the sky / In the still of the wind in the fresh of the day…” More interesting pieces like “Freight Train”–whose onomatopoeic dactylic meter magnificently captures a train in motion–or “Outsider”–with its frank couplets depicting the sneering attitude of a “posturing poet”–stand out with their clear, engaging voice.

A dappled collection with moments of artful clarity, but lacking in continuity.

Pub Date: Dec. 12th, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-4257-6198-1
Program: Kirkus Indie
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