Country Road

James Laughlin, Author Zoland Books $22.95 (149p) ISBN 978-0-944072-46-2
The title poem tells of a 1940s painting that has long hung in the poet's dining room and in which he continues to see new elements, even to imagining movement within it. So it is with this collection of mostly recollective, accessible poems, which attempt to avoid (like representational painting) ``rhetoric and verbal decoration.'' Laughlin, at 80, makes the old fresh in a variety of forms, including his older trademark lines, sometimes unpunctuated, of similar length. He writes often of love (``I wish I could talk to your body /Less cautiously; I mean in a /Language as forthright as its/ Beauty deserves...'') and famous lovers, frequently figures of myth. Greek epigrams, take-offs on classics and homages to Catullus, Yeats and Williams blend with poems on his mother, wives, sons and the infirmities of age. He tries new directions in segments from a long work-in-progress on his current life and his past, including his friendships with Pound and Thomas Merton. While exhibiting a considerable self-absorption, Laughlin is never less than a direct and accurate observer of his terrain: ``Not much time, they say./ What to do with it?/ Not much different, I think,/ Than what I've been doing.'' (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
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