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Irony builds on irony in Norman Dubie's latest collection of poetry: ""The poem,"" he writes, ""is only important like a shoe!/ . . . More like a pair of shoes. Or, say/ Like a blue, Etruscan slipper/ Made of skins from the stomach of deer who were fed/ Sweet-grasses and cress, and who were groomed/ By virgins once each morning during an early spring."" The jolt comes, not from the single line or image, but from extended metaphors sliding with seeming effortlessness, as in a fission reactor, one into the other. ""The man at the glass railway station in Pavlovask/ Crushes out a cigarette with his boot/ . . . he has memorized/ A poem in which a brown naked girl with an ikon-lamp/ Enters a bedroom: her hair reaches down her back and the little blue flame/ Inside the ikon is like a dusty grape/ In the beak of a raven."" There is humor, but not without its darker side: ""I've defended you against nothing the entire night/ . . . It's at times like these that you think/ you are not dead."" What sets Dubie's poetry apart, however, is a generosity of the imagination, a self-effacing quality (the poems, are largely inspired by famous and not-so-famous paintings): ""These peasants and their horse, at first light/ Seem absorbed in the pitch-blackness/ . . . The auburn horse/ Represents some inevitable sadness/ That will visit each of us, that visits/ These two peasants struggling in a winter pasture."" In an age of increasing narcissism, such expansiveness of spirit and such poetry is hard to find.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1977
Publisher: Braziller