ETHAN BENJAMIN BOLDT by Roger Weingarten


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The first book by this new poet, and one of the most intriguing and inventive collections to appear this year. Ethan Benjamin Boldt is a sort of period piece engrained in the American tradition, from 19th century Massachusetts out into the Western frontier life -- much in the style of Ondaatje's recent Collected Works of Billy the Kid (KR, 1974, p. 925). Weingarten runs on elliptically through a potpourri of images that challenge the puzzle-solver. For instance, his protagonist Ethan falls asleep during a sermon on Noah and hears the voice, presumably, of God: ""Ahoy, Ethan, grab my tail. I'm not a lamb in captain's pants; l'm not that deep. . . ."" There are preachers and Indians (Ethan's father is kidnapped, but escapes on ice-skates), farmers and vets, Civil War soldiers and abolitionist nuns, even truckers on the road. This poetry is a barn-raising where all the neighbors assemble in community. Weingarten explains: ""I wrote this poem to cheer you, to say, Mr. Shellhouse of south western Michigan, I move in your elemental serf."" Neither quaint nor prosaic, Weingarten's wizardry invigorates our old-fashioned identity and, yes, also cheers and gladdens.

Pub Date: May 13th, 1975
Publisher: Knopf