THE WATERCOURSE

Cynthia Zarin, Author . Knopf $23 (96p) ISBN 978-0-375-41366-7

Zarin's first book in eight years consistently delights and instructs. Beginning with a "Spode Plate" and looking back to "Harriet" ("She was my age: nine, I don't think ten—/ a kind of taunting I'd not do again") and forward to an "Heirloom" (" 'Take it,' my grandmother said. 'You might as well have it now.' 'No,' I said, knowing what now meant"), Zarin concentrates on the tiny, inarticulate moments of leisured life, where the pace of childhood stretches into adulthood, and "The Blue Moths," "Another Snowman" and "Michael's Boat" fill the days. There are moments of darkness and foreboding in poems like "Custody," but best are the verses of allegorical clarity: "Love blinks an eyelid,/ Nothing is for sure./ Bang goes the hammer,/ Echoes out the door./ Fury's whistling/ The dead dark bright—/ Hid the star/ I wish upon tonight." This book is firmly in the American light-verse tradition, where serious emotional business gets transacted under the cover of near nursery rhymes. Fans of Zarin's fellow New Yorker poets Elizabeth Macklin and Grace Schulman will find Zarin has an even lighter touch, and will like her all the better for it. (Jan. 23)

Forecast:Zarin is the author of two other poetry collections and children's books including Rose and Sebastian. The polish and accessibility of this book, dedicated to the late Knopf editor Harry Ford, make it "old school" but not outmoded, and could be recommended as such.

Reviewed on: 01/21/2002
Release date: 02/01/2002
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