THE SEASONS

Merrill Gilfillan, Author
Merrill Gilfillan, Author . Adventures in Poetry $12.50 (123p) ISBN 978-0-9706250-5-2
Reviewed on: 12/23/2002
Release date: 01/01/2002
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Several periods of the poet's life are chronicled in these wry and animated speech-driven poems set all over the United States. In his 11th collection, the award-winning poet and essayist Gillfillan (Satin Street; Magpie Rising: Sketches from the Great Plains) presents acute observations of urban and natural settings balanced by an impeccable ear and wit. Anchoring a set of 20 poems that vary in length from one to 50 pages, the long title poem is a sprawling assemblage of lyrics set in freeform travel diaries and flashbacks that document Gillfillan's late-20th-century naturalist's take on what Greil Marcus has called "the old, weird America": "...a lean Fugue/ for Five or Six contraltos/ built on the song/ of the Black-throated green./ 'Astonishing'/ said the New York/ Thames. 'Heart-wrenchingly/ beautiful,' raved the London Seine./ And that was/ Suitcase Simpson, chasing/ a train, shirttails flying/ down the track, late for the game." Gilfillan echoes second generation New York School list techniques in a pair of autobiographical poems which function essentially as warmth-driven catalogues of durationally variable single years: "Patchen died./ Chicken bouillon, bread and butter. No cash./ Berryman died. A ride down Market Street/ with a beautiful dancer/ from Escanaba, Michigan./ Cash. Lunch at the Sincere Café." A declarative-based wide-ranging poet who discourse on Old Testament animal-naming methods in the midst of a sonic stomp, Gilfillan breathes new life into the disappearing trope of poet-as-tramp, ranging over the continent with assurance and exuberance. (Dec.)

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