Light Years: New and Selected Poems

Dabney Stuart, Author
Dabney Stuart, Author Louisiana State University Press $32.95 (196p) ISBN 978-0-8071-1898-6
Paperback - 196 pages - 978-0-8071-1899-3
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This book is aptly titled: in poems selected from eight collections spanning three decades, Stuart, the editor of Shenandoah, touches on subjects as varied as fatherhood, restroom graffiti, classical myth and baseball with a facile, unassuming style-an aesthetic of ``keeping/ a light hold on the strings''-that, at worst, can feel nearly weightless, but at best shines with clarity. The dream-vision is his leitmotif, a means for unchecked flights of fantasy, with the poem acting as envoy between the earthly and numinous like the birds which fill Stuart's work. The form works best when capturing the mercurial dynamics of family life. Least successful, oddly enough, are his ``lighter'' poems (mostly from the '80s) with their somewhat cavalier humor, as these lines from ``The Girl of My Dreams'' suggest: ``she would put on her best breasts/ and sweater, float into my head/ for a good feel...'' Not until the new poems does easiness unmistakably transform to ease, as in ``The Water's Fine, I'm Fine'' and ``The Funeral,'' where the oneiric images of earlier work are blanced with a closely textured, resonant voice, leaving imprints of seemingly effortless beauty. (Nov.)
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