Endpoint and Other Poems

John Updike, Author . Knopf $25 (97p) ISBN 978-0-307-27286-7

Many delights but very few surprises await Updike's admirers in this last book of poems from the prolific essayist and novelist, completed only weeks before his death. Much of it gathers calm, casual, loosely rhymed sonnets, first in autobiographical sequences, describing the first and the last years of the poet's life: “Age I must, but die I would rather not... Be with me, words, a little longer.” These sequences sketch Arizona and New England; single sonnets, placed later in the collection, offer impressions of Russia, India, the Irish seashore (“like loads of eternal laundry,/ onrolling breaks cresting into foam”) and of nearer phenomena, such as the noise made by men fixing Updike's house. Quiet poems pay tribute to golf and golfers, to Eros in old age and to “America, where beneath/ the good cheer and sly jazz the chance/ of failure is everybody's right,/ beginning with baseball.” Elegant samples of Updike's celebrated light verse are also in evidence. Mostly, though, these are serious, quiet, low-pressure, frequently elegiac poems, concerned with later life—”old doo-wop stars,” for example, “gray hairdos still conked,/ their up-from-the-choir baby faces lined/ with wrinkles now.” (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/30/2009
Release date: 03/01/2009
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