Grazing

Ira Sadoff, Author
Ira Sadoff, Author University of Illinois Press $15.95 (88p) ISBN 978-0-252-06737-2
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A tentative, moody toughness runs through Sadoff's poems, wrenching them into odd shapes, and showing the poet to be suspicious of epiphany even as he courts it. At heart, though, Sadoff (Emotional Traffic) is a romantic, and many of the poems here drift on a tide of bitter retrospection that finds form now in a talky humor (""Go to the zoo. Just pay attention,/ for Christ's sake"") now in a kind of stoical despair (""Until the end, when we're indecipherable,/ composed, seraphic, speechless""). In the passage of time, whether it registers images from the war in Vietnam (""When I Come Home""; ""In the Dream"") or from more private erotic conflicts (""Solitude Etude""; ""Biographical Sketch""), Sadoff locates both the origin and the terminus of lament. And though the public and political struggles of the 1960s anchor the poet's open rhetoric--""I want to bury him in southern California/ with the Birchers and Libertarians,"" he writes in ""On the Day of Nixon's Funeral""--his intimate wars on the home front seem even more devastating: ""I spent years on my knees while she/ got off before me, her eyes fluttering closed,/ her mind several men away.... "" While his pointed rhetoric can occasionally shade into a gruff machismo, this sixth collection is most effective when Sadoff permits himself free play with the demotic, achieving a persuasive blend of sentiment and ironic swagger. (Sept.)
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