A career-spanning volume from one of our most valuable living American poets, offering poems that display an exquisite ear tuned to the natural world, to love and friendship, and to the continually renewable possibilities of language. David Young's settings are at once local and universal-an adolescence in Omaha, late summer on Lake Erie, a sleepless night in the backyard during a meteor shower. He moves with dazzling ease between culture and nature, between the literary and the philosophical, microcosm and macrocosm. Here are poems on Osip Mandelstam and Chairman Mao, the meaning of boxcars on the track, the beautiful names of the months, and a fox at the field's edge, charged in each case by Young's fierce intelligence and candor in the face of grief and loss. ""We float through space. Days pass,"" Young writes in ""The Portable Earth-Lamp."" ""Sometimes we know we are part of a crystal / where light is sorted and stored."" His metaphysical reach, balancing remarkable humility with penetrating vision, is one of the great gifts of this exemplary career in poetry.
Young rose to some fame during the 1970s, a slightly belated but undeniably talented inheritor of the Deep Image style: his short poems and free verse sequences relied on quick leaps between landscapes and memories, moments of nostalgia and episodes of transcendence. Also known as a prolific translator from the Chinese, Young has grown clearer and calmer, more receptive to the literal, over the decades, as this second selected shows. "When the dead walk, do they need to use their feet? one early sequence asked; "Vermont Summer offers instead "A trefoil in the hand, a meteor trail/ crossing the retina, a black and glinting/ tart-sweet berry in the mouth. The long "Night Thoughts takes its name from a famous 18th-century poem, its structure from an insomniac's hour-counting: "I'm the sleight-of-hand man still/ here in this summer sunrise. Young's awareness of literary precursors and allies saturates the poems: Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Spenser, Miroslav Holub, Wallace Stevens, Henry Vaughan, James Wright are a few of the writers addressed or described. Yet the late poems (including nine new ones) seek instead the simplest possible pleasures-equanimity, companionship, and ease: "Then I remember to breathe again/ and the blue snow shines inside me. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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September 06, 2010
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