The Probable World

Lawrence Raab, Author Penguin Books $15.95 (96p) ISBN 978-0-14-058921-4
A poet of the free-verse epiphany, Raab indulges a safely distant fascination with bitterness and death in this fifth collection: ""Think of the truck out of control/ on the thruway, or the bridge/ about to collapse. Think of the terrorist/ planting his bomb./ Not one of us is spared such imaginings."" The estranged tone is best when tempered with humor: ""Watching a couple of crows/ playing around in the woods, swooping/ in low after each other, I wonder/ if they ever slam into trees."" But sometimes it works terrifically on its own; ""Love"" begins ""In a sudden rage a man kills his wife"" and the terrible TV verit of such a juxtaposition drives the poem, as it develops, ad absurdum: ""How can he kill himself in front of his dog?"" Unfortunately, such moments are not the norm here. ""Big Ideas"" never capitalizes on its first line, ""I read the papers and think about hatred""; instead we are given the finale ""We watch the news, we read the papers,/ afraid, sometimes, of what we understand."" The rest of this probable world contains ""Great Art,"" ""Bad Music,"" ""Big Ideas,"" ""My Spiritual Days"" and a host of other potentially volatile subjects, but the narrator is unwilling to follow them out on their respective limbs. Raab's What We Don't Know About Each Other was an NBA finalist in 1992. With conventional free-verse stanzas that are neither formally demanding nor linguistically playful, and with only occasionally compelling narrative motifs, this isn't the one to read first. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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