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Poetry Roundup

Vincent Katz, Rapid Departures
(Ateliê Editorial, 2005)

Rapid Departures is a love song to Brazil, à la New York School. Vincent Katz brings all the magic of a James Schuyler landscaped moment to his wife’s native home. The poems are presented in a handsome edition with translations into Portuguese by Regina Alfarano. Artwork by Mario Cafeiro adds to the flavor.

Conversational, observational and artistic, Katz sees like a painter. He notes the significant details: colors, names, plants and places. From “Expanse”: “copious lavender blooms/truncated orange tile roof/fresh sky breeze/a few clouds decorate the blue.” The metrics reinforce the rhyme and alliteration of blooms/breeze and blue and deliver a svelte punch, trademark Katz. He notes that “any view is ultimately/your view.”

In the long title poem, Katz writes, “We are researching ways to look.” Accordingly, he adds some staccato syntax, which implies a stripped-down narrative. It’s laced together with bits of admirably amiable addresses such as “here, our manuscript turned to mush.”

Katz can be a tour guide at times, as he tells a companion named Guto in “The Regattas at Saint Adresse.” “You’ll be there somewhere/leading me on, as I am called/to guide those who are near.” You’ll want to be there, trust me.


Kristin Prevallet, I Afterlife, Essay in Mourning Time
(Essay Press, 2006)

Kristin Prevallet seems something of a genuine wunderkind. Her formidable gifts bear forth in epic proportions in this book of essays/poems about her father’s suicide. Mixing official reports with poetic reflection and insights, her pen renders a powerful potion.

One of Prevallet’s gifts is to follow a subject until it gives up its secrets. Using repeating motifs and grammatical constructs, she builds up poems that are poised and self-possessed. The term “decease” weaves in and out of a page along with other repeating words hinting at the form of an inventive sestina. Another page builds on the word “closure.” Another catalogues the portentous and poignant objects of a shrine.

These writings have the persuasive appeal of an essay’s argument and its examination of doubt. “Elegy is anti-afterlife. Afterlife presents itself...the hopefulness ofafterlife is the despair of the present.” Prevallet treats her momentous subject and its “grief and loss” with an intimate investigation in which the text reveals conclusions.

This treatise reaches beyond the personal to include the suffering of the world with all its war and death…and wisdom. The confident cadences are completely commendable, born of concentration and a desire and will to go deep. Here is the surety of purity, born of one whose “sign is on fire.”


Ed Foster, What He Ought To Know
(Marsh Hawk Press, 2006)

Solid gold—these poems are contemplative and rarified—they look back over the span of life from an elevated vantage. Knowledge, trust and truth are indicative of the subjects Edward Foster pursues in his lyric lines. Rigorous and taut, they maintain a weighty tone that produces a palpable persona. This persona, sage as he is, makes profound pronouncements. And he does so with precision and economy. The results feel solid, like they’ll be around for a long while—and fittingly, that sense of eternity is what’s addressed here.

The poems reflect a life full of romance, reading and travel complimented by grace and intuition. Foster’s voice is that of a seasoned and reasoned man who pulls at the reins. “Were the world less cautious, each/event would have its spike.” He argues with his faith and finds resolution in the idea that “rapture is the discipline.”

Drawing from the ghostly whispers of Acteon, Shakespeare, Ted Berrigan, Simone Weil (and many others), and from many places, from Venice to Byzantium to the Jersey shore, the poems are bittersweet elegies. They leave their mark like acid on glass. “Look, dear: they’ve had their revenge./Who’s left behind /to speak of us again.” Despite some nihilistic ballast, there is a stirring sense of the spiritual that speaks above all. “Dear Something-in-the-sky/ the order that we’ve all endured/these many years was just/our childhood need to honor you.” 


Jeffrey Cyphers Wright

Wright is a New Romantic poet associated with St. Mark's Poetry Project.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2007

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