EVEN TIDE by Larry Woiwode


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Readers familiar with Woiwode's remarkable novels know the flavor: a tangibility as real as any photograph, an emotional open blade, and language that strains to capture what, in one poem here, is termed the ""likelihood of life."" How to transfer all this into poetry and not make stunted miniatures is the task--and one tackled admirably. ""My blackened eye turns upon zero,/ My good eye turns on 'Goodnight,' ""--speaks a narrator who moves throughout from self-loathing to ambiguity to, finally, a Christian tethering, ""predestined and reinstated."" The book is strong stuff; not for Woiwode is the bland Iowa perfections of current verse: ""a beading of whims."" More testament than showcase, the aim here is order (""What painted shape/ Have I painted/ Myself in?"") that can span the privacies of marriage and writing. ""I am the thorn cut by you along with/ The red rose/ And who can say, once staked in white sun, which of us chose/ It?"" Graceful and true technical changes are rung here, but Woiwode is determined to use his language. There's confession (""I've sung so off-key I was ashamed!/I've lied about my marriageable status/ My income, my age, my business, my name!"") and erotic anxiety and loose guilt, but also an urgency, a drive (perhaps a novelist's stamina) which seems to tie both the horrors and the salvings to the same port of focus: ""even tide."" Brash, penitential, redeemed, the narrative figure in the book operates as a fictional character as well as a personal voice: the lens zooms. The ""I"" is charged to 'reconstruct our way/ . . . When actually it overcame us so easily""--and it does so impressively in this head-on and hard-won book.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux