Illuminated ? Forceful lines, brief lyric units and a sense of urgency make this 15th book from the much-honored Stern ("/>

Everything Is Burning

Gerald Stern, Author . Norton $23.95 (96p) ISBN 978-0-393-06055-3

Rather than, say, Illuminated ? Forceful lines, brief lyric units and a sense of urgency make this 15th book from the much-honored Stern (American Sonnets , etc.) his most powerful new verse for a long while. As he has done before, Stern builds free verse around incidents from his own life and from his Jewish-American heritage. This time, however, the incidents go by much faster, and the tones include not his usual equable melancholy but anger, joy, uncertainty, frustration. One poem introduces "Me and my critic, me and my wife, a dog that/ doesn't love me"; another concludes, "let love take place/ in old cars, let them line up at the curb/ in Lovers' Lane and let the voyeurs go/ from car to car with flashlights." Sometimes just one sentence long, or one run-on nonsentence, the poems cover not only Stern's own experiences, but his impressions of heroes and antiheroes—Plath and Pound, Damon Runyon and Jack Ruby ("one of the wild Jews from East Dallas"). "How short it is, and raw and honest," he says in "Original Stern Country," one of a few poems that double as manifestos: his short, rough work fits especially well with the raw grief that emerges toward the end of the book, in the disturbing, and moving, "My Sister's Funeral." (June)

Reviewed on: 05/30/2005
Release date: 06/01/2005
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