FIREWEEDS by Theodore Weiss


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Weiss' lines always seem to be following a sure metrical, or syllabic pattern. But on closer inspection it's clear they rarely do. So too the movement of his language through the structure of his poems--often short stanzas of three or four lines, and lines of medium length--appears to be echoing some deeply traditional poetic diction, when in fact it is usually closer to prose. The secret seems to be in the tone, the approach the voice takes not only to the subject and the audience, but to the very words themselves. Weiss informs them with a weight and authority they otherwise wouldn't have. In this, his sixth major collection of poetry, as in his earlier work, this tone works best when least obvious. Often this is in the poems where we are introduced to new characters--the ""tart old Scots landlady"" who exclaims ""Not to know/ your great-grandfather! How do/ you live? O you Americans!"" or the cultural devotee who ""can't remember anything any more"" but still keeps ""hoping that all that got into me and is working still."" Least Successful are the poems that address themselves too familiarly to the ""old masters"" and their creations--""Oedipus/ in undress, yawning, itchy,"" ""Auden,/ like that much admired Cavafy and those/ older still"" or ""The Good Gray Poet"" whom Weiss admonishes to ""Look to your words, old man."" But there are images and characters whose impact is undeniable.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1976
Publisher: Macmillan