THE DEATHBED PLAYBOY by Philip Dacey

THE DEATHBED PLAYBOY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

paper 0-910055-47-5 The Minnesota State Univ. Professor is probably better known for his influential anthology, Strong Measures (which he co- edited in 1986), than for his five previous books of poetry. Though the anthology announced a new interest in “traditional forms,” Dacey seems not to have mastered them in all this time. Which is not to say he doesn—t come close in the best poems here, those that happen also to be the least personal of his narratives. Four pieces on Walt Whitman derive from incidents in the poet’s life: he attends a church service at a mental asylum; falls asleep reading Florence Nightingale on nursing (and imagines working side- by-side with her); and is seen from the view of a young man whose parents entertain the poet one summer, during which time he wades in the creek naked and hugs trees, much to the speaker’s amusement. A simple Blakean poem, “The Burial,” in rhymed couplets, finds the poet attending the funeral of his young nephew. Too many of Dacey’s other, jokier poems seem dashed-off and are often occasioned by the oddity of a found sentence or phrase. “For the God Poseidon” mixes the modern submarines with their ancient namesake; “The Neighbors” answers a pundit’s hypothetical remark about George Bush and Saddam Hussein; “Four Men in a Car” elaborates on a photographer’s remark that no image is sadder than that in the title; and “Trousers——the most tasteless of the type—riffs on a remark from Nadezhda Mandelstam. But Dacey isn—t worried about being offensive: in bad-boy Catholic form, he updates the Stations of the Cross with his glib political rhetoric; and in the execrable “Why Jesus Was Crucified,” he ends a narrative about discovering his wife’s sketches of her vagina with an absurd conceit about the death of Christ. Dacey’s heavily “and pointlessly—enjambed lines suggest his formal unease, and his short-line free verse is often sentimental, embarrassing, or both.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-910055-48-3
Page count: 96pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1999