Odd Mercy: Poems

Gerald Stern, Author W. W. Norton & Company $18.95 (112p) ISBN 978-0-393-03879-8
Stern's inner world is so capacious that the poems that pour forth from it are not easily categorized. These new pieces, which are centered primarily in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, are built of meditation, narration and a pastoral lyricism that turns Gotham into a garden. Stern's visions take shape in the form of bluebirds and sunflowers, sofas and Hondas. And ghosts. Ancestors and Judaic brethren invoke a heritage of suffering throughout, yielding an exquisite melancholy. Also present is Walt Whitman, a secular--even pagan--presence whose vigorous influence is keenly felt as Stern nurtures bucolic verse, sometimes writing from a bug or a bird's eye view. Among this selection's opening salvo of 22 poems, most notable is ``Ida,'' a stunning Kaddish for his mother. The book's second half is comprised of a long poem in 17 sections. Titled ``Hot Dog,'' the street name of a homeless woman whom Stern watches over, the work is an encyclopedic rumination on body and spirit. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/1995
Release date: 09/01/1995
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