Lewinter (Elementary Number Theory with Programming, 2015, etc.) channels Tennyson and Dickinson in well-constructed but old-fashioned poems about loss and the search for true love.
Reflecting both his Ph.D. in mathematics and his MFA in music, Lewinter’s poetry marries precise form with pleasing rhythm. Although the stanza structure varies, lines unfailingly rhyme, either in an ABAB or AABB pattern. Along with end rhymes, internal half-rhymes and alliteration accentuate the flow. The often archaic poetic vocabulary—“Tis,” “oft,” “naught,” “yore,” “nary,” “whence,” and so on—is of a piece with the conventional rhyming. As the title suggests, many of the poems are elegies for the lost: his Holocaust survivor father, dead friends, and former lovers. Lewinter also commemorates soldiers’ sacrifices and marvels that, decades later, he still misses his mother’s reassuring love. There are echoes of Dickinson in Lewinter’s imagined collision with death: “Death brushed by me yesterday, / It was the briefest meeting. / I hurried on along my way, / The encounter short and fleeting!” Elsewhere, he recalls Tennyson by celebrating the heights of human achievement (“At Times When I, with Spirits Low” and “It Can Be Done”) or evoking unrequited courtly love (“You Love Me Not As I Love You”). Travel pieces take on the weight of epic journeys—“Who knows what lies in store for me? / Some say a journey to the sea. / Then, a westbound cloud I’ll board”—with a scene on a cruise providing a clear contrast between hedonism and “lofty things that truly matter.” Cheesy patriotic poems, overabundant exclamation points, and confusingly unpunctuated lines (“Fear you are not wanted here,” “Stranger you affected me”) are minor drawbacks, and more attention could be given to layout. However, homosexual love is a compassionate theme, as in “Homophobes” and “Fly Away,” in which “love demands that one defies / Any power or force or will or whim / That would deny the love ’tween me and him.”
Strong themes keep these traditional poems from feeling outdated.