BLUE PAJAMAS by Stephen Cushman


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paper 0-8071-2303-X This first book by UVA English Professor Cushman, the author of two scholarly studies of modern poetry, displays a range of styles and voices: at times studied and somber, Cushman lightens up in poems about nature and family that often gain force through quiet rhymes and regular measures. The writer’s subtle shifts in rhythm from poem to poem are in keeping with his Protestant sense of humility—there’s nothing showy in these straightforward narratives or gentle sonnets. Having —fussed enough with faith,— Cushman tries to come to God through a contemplation of Lee praying for his troops in a Virginia Church. He reveres the dead: soldiers dishonored by the exploitive Civil War photographers in —War, Effect of a Shell on a Confederate Soldier—; F. Scott Fitzgerald, at whose grave he pledges —to misbehave, flap and roar—; and those in his family history: his mother as a young girl praying for her father, dead at Anzio; or a sister who dies at birth (but who speaks in her own voice on Mother’s Day). Religious rite commands reconsideration: how communion literally joins us at the lip through the chalice; how the imposition of ashes makes us look anew at dust; how the sudden malfunction of the church organ results in true congregational song. If Cushman’s nature poems seem negligible, despite gestures to Marianne Moore and Thoreau, his domestic poetry is superlative: chatty, congenial, and full of the drama of family life. A debut signaling a formidable talent—well worth watching.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8071-2302-1
Page count: 60pp
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1998