Sweet Nothings: An Anthology of Rock and Roll in American Poetry

Jim Elledge, Editor Indiana University Press $16.95 (312p) ISBN 978-0-253-20864-4
The conceit behind this collection is familiar: since rock 'n' roll played a formative role in the lives of baby boomers, writes Elledge ( Nothing Nice ) in his introduction, ``no one should be surprised that the music appears in the work of many of the Baby Boom poets, especially in their poems dealing with adolescence and young adulthood.'' Ultimately, though, his book is intriguing less for the general sociohistorical reasons noted than because it harbors an underlying current of sadness and loss. Far from the good times of the music, these poets stare at the '60s--the '50s and '70s are much less mentioned eras--and don't like what they see. ``We lied: there was no other way,'' writes Katharyn Howd Machan in ``In 1969.'' And while the collection offers 79 poems from writers that include Thom Gunn, Yusef Komunyakaa, Rita Dove and Dana Gioia, the poetry rarely conveys the power of the music that so influenced them. The desire to recapture a lost youth is best observed in a poem that isn't really about rock--``Over Voice of America,'' Dennis Finnell's ode to jazz master Charlie Parker. And few writers achieve the straightforward desire stated in David Trinidad's ``Meet the Supremes,'' a wonderful journalistic account of one man's obsession with ``girl groups'' that summons up a musicality elsewhere mostly missed. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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Hardcover - 978-0-253-31936-4
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