INCUNABULUM by W.N. France

INCUNABULUM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A fine collection of long poetry that follows two families’ lives in the American Northeast.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to call France’s book a domestic epic. His verse takes on the everyday challenges of family life in sweeping fashion, instilling the characters with a quietly heroic grandeur. The author writes in long, stolid bricks of free verse, and he builds his poetic house with meticulous care. Some readers may not be able to digest such a protracted, thick stream of words, but those who stick with it will be rewarded. In a series of long poems (or are they chapters?), the book tells the story of two couples–Em and Maria, Will and Petra–and their sons, Nils and Theo. France’s wide-ranging verse delves deep into the lives of this connected pair of family units as they deal with birth and death, love and loss. The author feels comfortable in houses, and some of his best verse involves thorough descriptions of the structures. An early evocation of one couple’s first home reveals his appreciation for the craft of building: “Original mahogany woodwork / and toilet tank too, sheet-lead lined / with push-button flushing. Original / plaster and red oak floors (that sagged …) / But solidly built.” Fortunately, France has as much respect for his own craft as he does for building, and he remains a scrupulous architect of his own poetic structures. There are few wasted words, and readers will quickly appreciate the author’s precise diction. France’s habitual economy of language is only infrequently sullied by the unnecessary prolix line: “your grandiosity / had never been more insuppressible!” says the narrator of the ailing Em. But such excesses are rare, and they do little to damage the high quality of the verse.

Well-wrought domestic poetry set on an epic scale.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-741-4433755
Program: Kirkus Indie
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