Green Sees Things in Waves

August Kleinzahler, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $22 (96p) ISBN 978-0-374-16672-4
Kleinzahler's casual manner belies his subtle, capacious sense of what lyric can do. His new poems depict a frisky, smart-alecky dog who is an expert on WWI poets; a pair of elderly, stranded small-town muses; the headachy ex-acidhead of the title; and the cute ""little toughies"" on Sunday morning streets. Longer poems analyze Chinese medicine; mull over a ""bad feeling""(""I call it Dolph""); and describe the light on the New Jersey Palisades. As in his last book, Red Sauce, Whiskey and Snow (1995), Kleinzahler shuffles impressionistic, descriptive poems in among rarer subgenres: edgy monologues, dream-visions, beast-fables, epigrams and film noir adventures. His work balances seemingly offhand notation against large elegiac intentions, much as it sets the slang his characters use against comic, or precise, five-dollar words--""magisterial,"" ""griseous,"" ""perpend."" Drawing for structure and attitude on Frank O'Hara and Wallace Stevens, and for details on Ezra Pound, Thom Gunn and the freewheeling mannerisms of the Beats, Kleinzahler's best poems seem improvisatory, even jotted, at first (""My freight elevator makes a distant whump/ then squeals to a stop on the floors back there/ behind my left ventricle/ OUT OF SERVICE/ for months, I am at first alarmed then refreshed""), but they deepen on rereading, revealing a secret seriousness. Kleinzahler's sometimes friendly, sometimes confrontational tones, winning vigor and idiosyncratic speech rhythms give these ambitious oddities grace and lasting appeal. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/04/1998
Release date: 05/01/1998
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