Early Collected Poems, 1965–1992

Gerald Stern, Author
Gerald Stern, Norton, $35 (512p) ISBN 978-0-393-07666-0
Reviewed on: 07/26/2010
Release date: 07/01/2010
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Stern's early volumes had consistent strengths, combining the gritty epiphanies of the Deep Image school (think of Galway Kinnell) with attention to working-class Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, to American immigration, and to Jewish tradition (think of Philip Levine). "Come with me to Stanley's and spend your life/ weeping in the small park on 106th St." one poem invites. The prolific Stern, whose many honors include a National Book Award, moved in the course of three decades from Philly and New York City to New Jersey to the University of Iowa; these poems shift, too, from one locale to the next (with stopovers in Italy and Crete: "Crete is a kind/ of moon to me, a kind of tiny planet"). But the sensibility, and the music of speech, do not much change: an almost loquaciously informal free verse, a commitment to plain-man American diction, and a quest after the deepest truths of the unadorned spirit show up in almost all his work, up through (and including) the long elegy for Stern's father with which this big collection ends. Admirers will be happy to have so much in one place, but Stern does repeat himself, so new readers may not find this the best place to start. (July)
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