Mount Lebanon

Karl Kirchwey, Author
Karl Kirchwey. Putnam, $30 (112p) ISBN 978-0-399-15727-1
Reviewed on: 03/21/2011
Release date: 03/01/2011
Open Ebook - 112 pages - 978-1-101-48648-1
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In his sixth book, Kirchwey seamlessly melds the contemporary and commonplace with the past and mythical. Many of the poems include history, such as musings on figures in ancient Rome and their experiences, which are woven into a modern emotional and lyrical landscape. Divided into three sections, the book is loosely centered around an old Shaker community. The first conjures these surroundings in a fresh light: "see, on your right, a field of purple heather/ empty and radiant in the afternoon." As though directly confronting Shaker beliefs in chastity, the second section turns inward, exploring the poet's own libido and love through memory, myth and e-mail. "Viagra Nation," likens the sex-themed spam, "tumescent," in in-boxes to "small birds fussing prettily in the hedge," and surprisingly juxtaposes this with his musings on gender embodied in Tiresias. Kirchwey looks back at love with the distance of time, and deeper understanding: "your eyelids, livid as storm, veined and tender;/ all love's anatomy: why mention it,/ when most of all I loved my own rapture?" The final section quietly laments the impermanence of love, and the fragility of beauty through the microcosm of the garden, which seasonally succumbs to weeds, their "blind/ and pulpy mesh of roots." (Apr.)
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