School Figures

Cathy Song, Author
Cathy Song, Author University of Pittsburgh Press $25 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8229-3773-9
Paperback - 128 pages - 978-0-8229-5517-7
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Song (Frameless Windows, Squares of Light), a Yale Series of Younger Poets Award winner in 1982, writes in her third book about her family and her past. She conducts the music of her verse with great skill, offering her infant son's ``ring of eight pearly teeth/ like beads on a rattle'' and evoking students who disappear ``in the broken shoes of the wind.'' Her most affecting poems concern family. In ``A Conservative View'' her mother's thrift is stunning. In ``Sunworshippers'' Song tells us, ``We were not allowed to love ourselves too much.'' The passion of her understanding carries over to others. ``All day I hear him,'' she writes in ``Journey,'' a poem about her father's dying. And then: ``Night whittles a sled of moon. Shavings of wood/ drift to the far/ corners of the room.'' Sometimes the poems read like prose broken into lines of verse, or too little tension informs a poem, so that its release brings a reader only slight satisfaction: in ``Killing Time'' Song steps back, in a reflection of frustration with her husband, to end, passively, with leaping ``in shadows across the grass.'' In all, this is good work-that could risk more. (Oct.)
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