Out of Danger: Poems

James Fenton, Author
James Fenton, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $23 (104p) ISBN 978-0-374-22831-6
Paperback - 116 pages - 978-0-374-52437-1
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A poet-journalist may seem an unlikely combination, since in America the callings have become professions. But Fenton ( All the Wrong Places ), an Englishman, shows what can be done in both when talent and intelligence mingle with an independent spirit. Out of Danger shows that he is among the most interesting and original poets going. He deserves a wide readership in the U.S., not least because of his work's humor, topicality and lilt. Cleverness abounds, but Fenton is smartest in the artistic choices that enable him to movingly treat worldly matters in oblique, seemingly offhand ways. ``Out of the East,'' his central section, is conceived as a series of songs for musical theater on such unlikely subjects as the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Chinese government's crackdown at Tiananmen Square. One of these, ``Cut-Throat Christ,'' is a Kiplingesque masterpiece combining the Manila underworld with Christian gospel. The final poem, ``Manila Manifesto,'' may not win Fenton friends here because of its sarcasm about American literary politics, but it is a funny, dead-on polemic: ``Paint like the Flemish! / Give weight to the blemish! / Down with a cautious imperfection! / Down with a bloodless circumspection!'' Fenton follows his own advice. (Aug.)
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