Left-Handed

Jonathan Galassi, Author
Jonathan Galassi. Knopf, $26 (128p) ISBN 978-0-307-95708-5
Reviewed on: 03/26/2012
Release date: 03/01/2012
Open Ebook - 105 pages - 978-0-307-95743-6
Paperback - 111 pages - 978-0-375-71217-3
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FSG president and noted translator Galassi, in his third collection of poems, tells a tale of love—and a lifestyle—ended and new love and life found. The four-line poem “Young” sums up the heterosexual life left behind: “I tried, and each attempt was a fiasco./ I yearned, but every love of mine was wrong./ I needed, and the shame was overwhelming./ I failed, and so I hated being young.” With a light touch reminiscent of James Schuyler, Galassi’s speaker free-associates his way down the page and deeper into his anxieties, addressing one or more unnamed beloveds, as in “The Scarf”: “When or if you wear/ your Loro Piana scarf/ the one I gave you/ once upon a time why/ does it have to sit so/ heavy on your shoul-/ ders?” The poems ache with grief and guilt—and difficult acceptance—over the wife and family left: “your neck your back your voice/ your neck your back the tears/ the girls the life I left the lost/ life all of it was ours is ours/ was ours is ours was.” Passing through this guilt, the poems emerge in celebrations of new love and Eros: “You are toffee, you are sand in sunlight/ you are handsome, winsome, bright and lithe....” Galassi’s poems are first and foremost vulnerable, and many will find this book, which reads not unlike a novel, startling. (Mar.)
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