BLUE WINE and Other Poems by John Hollander

BLUE WINE and Other Poems

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Nearly a third of the 42 poems in this collection observe and comment on works of art--painting: "". . . there are no distances/ In this picture and the green has put an end to no world/ Save the barren plain of canvas. . .,"" or sculpture: ""The figures coming into stone being commemorate/ Our consciousness of bodies' joining. . ."" This style of elegant art criticism persists, unfortunately, throughout; dinner conversation, train rides, landscapes, and love-making meet the same bland and wordy appreciation. This is sometimes pretty, and usually boring--although the solemnity occasionally breaks into literary allusions and quaint puns, e.g., ""'O beautiful for specious skies,' you/ sang"" or ""Valediction forbidding/ Morning."" Hollander's ear is not good; ""the swarm of noon's/ Tiny-winged exigencies"" is a tongue-twister, as is the opening address to the fate ""Lachesis"": ""Random measurer. . . ."" His preference for elevated diction and subject matter, popular 20 years ago, is a mistake--but perhaps his insights are tired for any age: ""Echo has the last word,/ But she loses the rest. . .""; ""The literalness of shaping a/ Mass is like a kind of/ Groping around in a/ Midnight of thick fact. . . ."" Despite an admirable mastery of technique, this collection is, like the blue wine of the title poem, a contrived oddity--and leaves no aftertaste.

ISBN: 0801822211
Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press