Crossroads: Poems

David R. Slavitt, Author Louisiana State University Press $15.95 (64p) ISBN 978-0-8071-1753-8
``To claim the poem as mine would be to tell / only that half-truth that's worse than a lie,'' Slavitt ( Equinox ) says in one poem here. Perhaps so, but that should not entail working with a voice so superficial that it reveals nothing of its speaker and at the same time attaches unnecessary weight to trivialities such as hamsters or books. When he does take a more personal stance, the revelations of this prolific writer and respected Latin translator are almost embarrassing, as when he compares his sex life to that of the osprey. A poem in rhymed quatrains refers to giving poetry readings at colleges as an act of condescension, the audience as ``sad small groups'' and the work of students in creative writing courses as beyond help. Like the majority of poems in this volume's second section, this was meant as a study of irony, but readers will find themselves too insulted to laugh. With what seems a throwback to the academic poetry of the 1950s, Slavitt can make even a formal poem (rhymed, or a sestina variation he calls ``pentina'') sound prosaic. Too often he plays a game of one-upmanship with great writers (Catullus, Ovid), proving he knows them while trying to outdo them; he fails. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/1994
Release date: 03/01/1994
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