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GOODBYE TO THE ORCHARD

Steven Cramer, Author
Steven Cramer, Author . Sarabande $20.95 (75p) ISBN 978-1-932511-04-8 ISBN 978-1-932511-05-5
Reviewed on: 09/20/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Hardcover - 75 pages - 978-1-932511-04-8
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The poet's young children, his affectionate wife and his sister, recently dead from cancer, dominate this deft fourth volume from the Massachusetts-based Cramer (The Eye That Desires to Look Upward ). Like Robert Pinsky (whom several poems thank by name), Cramer seeks a civil, reasonable voice, a voice that brings rhyming forms and meters painlessly into middle-class American life: the "paper wasp" and "haze of gnats" in his orchard lead easily to the "so-called Secret Garden" of poets long dead. Despite the eponymous pastorals, however, Cramer is most at home in directly autobiographical lyric. Tender, surprising poems describe his wife's pregnancy ("The Toughest Thing") and shared adventures in raising a daughter and son: the former is in one poem—"so afraid/ of throwing up she only plays at home." A sheaf of elegies give the middle of the book a somber tone, from "the month my sister barely ate or drank" to memories after her death. Cramer's love poems sound genuine and affecting, and his command of everyday detail—"the circular wash/ of a street sweep's brush, strident jays, brats/ on Schwinns"—is inarguable. (Oct.)

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