Heartwood: Poems

Eric Pankey, Author
Eric Pankey, Author Atheneum Books $15.95 (64p) ISBN 978-0-689-11971-2
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
The author of For the New Year, winner of an Academy of American Poets' Walt Whitman Award, gracefully examines the parallels that exist between continuity in nature and in human relationships. These poems describe loss and renewalthe cycles endured and the faith maintained despite pain and doubt: ``Just last week the winter was relentless./ Now, in the gutter right next to my feet,/ rivulets of thaw scrawl in the gray silt./ I don't understand how it comes to this/shaded drifts gutted by wind, snow retreating,/ blackening into mud, the bright light dazzling us/ into happinesshow this is all a healing.'' Pankey's language is often vivid and physical, giving many of the poems palpable texture and meaning. Some metaphors, however, while fresh and evocative, are not fully realized, and the poet's wonder and observation wax murky and precious. His narratives possess a clear voice and distinct shape, but lyrics, frequently lacking clarity and force, blur together. Confronting the issue of his father's recent death, Pankey tries to make sense of tender childhood memories in a number of poems and, in the process, accepts the fact of ambivalence. In ``The Same Cloth,'' he uses lurid and violent detail to describe his father's reaction to his and his brother's failure at ``frog-gigging'': ``Our father had shown/ my brother and me how/ to bring the prongs down/ quick into the slick flesh/ and hard cartilage/ behind the bullfrog's eyes.'' It is in such lucid poems that Pankey's voice is strongest and most resonant. (July)
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