Locusts at the Edge of Summer

John Balaban, Author Copper Canyon Press $15 (156p) ISBN 978-1-55659-123-5
Although only the first of the three sections into which these poems are grouped directly mines Balaban's experiences in Vietnam, bitter memories of that war haunt the entire collection. New poems are interspersed with selections from previous volumes including After Our War and Words for My Daughter. Near the beginning, he writes of the crippled soldiers who came back from Vietnam like ""snags and tatters arrived, with immigrant uncertainty,/ in the United States. It was almost home."" In the second section, Balaban takes us along on a cross-country journey of discovery. He finds the violence of the war on the road in America as well: after listing a series of shootings gleaned from the news, he observes, ""Late at night, when radio waves skip across States,/ you can hear ricochets from Maine to L.A."" Seeing the violence of war pervading American society, he sometimes adopts a bitter, sneering stance toward ordinary people. But the book's final section, ""Viewing the New World Order,"" moves unexpectedly, and effectively, from bitterness to hope as Balaban discovers the possibility of reconciliation in the birth of his daughter (""as if you were sent/ to call me back into our helpless tribe"") and in his work: ""Only poetry lasts./ The walls crumble; Horace endures."" (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
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