DAMAGES by Richard Howard


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A sinister and decaying world haunts these poems. Houses, gardens, a shipboard party, form a background filled with champagne, Scriabin and Pierce Arrows for an indistinct group of aimless ""messy lives."" Twilight falls on an indecisive moment (to be a committed poet, or not?); the memory of childhood cruelty to mice and bees becomes a panicky foretaste of future pain: an aging dancer, dead poets, a queer woman-hermit, are touched with a sexual life-and-death strangeness, a phosphorescent, heavy sense of something spoiled and dream-like. The longest group of poems deals with childhood friendship and sex-play with a little girl who grows up to promiscuity and suicide (""Black-faced on the garage floor, The car meter running like a mower.""). There is little peaceable sadness and sense of past in the reminiscent landscapes; rather, a nervous, edgy awareness of objects, and a latent distaste and disaster lies in wait in the lines, forming poetry that is disturbing on all its surfaces but its depths are defended and hidden.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1967
Publisher: Wesleyan Univ. Press