Coming & Going

James J. McAuley, Author
James J. McAuley, Author University of Arkansas Press $24 (148p) ISBN 978-1-55728-072-5
Reviewed on: 06/01/1989
Release date: 06/01/1989
The range of Irish-born McAuley's ( The Exile's Book of Hours ) ambitious sixth collection, which assembles poems from previous books along with new verse, owes a dual allegiance to the forthright emotional intimacy of contemporary movements and the structural formality of classical poetry. Influenced in scope and content by the Gaelic literary tradition, McAuley revives myths with urgency. Simultaneously, he examines domestic moments with a seriousness that elevates them to mythic stature: ``When he turns his head to kiss her breast, / Her heartbeat rises to his lips, the language / For a whole history of art.'' These poems are remarkable for their air of objectivity; there's a measured calm between the action of the poem and the speaker's response to it. This distance allows for unexpected moral complexity: the speaker is able to recognize the conflicts inherent in such issues as intimacy, loyalty and desire. Though uneven, McAuley's collection manages to bridge the great dichotomy between quotidian reality and archetypal representation in a fully resonant manner. (Sept.)
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