North Street: Poems

Jonathan Galassi, Author HarperCollins Publishers $23 (96p) ISBN 978-0-06-019540-3
Coming more than 10 years after his debut, Morning Run, Galassi's second collection also follows his monumental translations of Montale's essays and poems, which recently culminated in a Collected edition of the latter. Fans of Montale's icy compression and quietly incendiary word choices may thus scratch their heads at Galassi's own tepid blend of bathos and mysticism, if they haven't run across it in the New Yorker or New Republic: ""Churlish remaker, your absence can only/ enhance my unshakable faith in enthrallment/ as I stare at the shade on the long lawn at dusk/ drink in hand and consider again what it all meant."" Divided into four sections--""North Street Dithyrambs"" (reviving the Dionysian paean); ""Sackett Street"" (of Brooklyn); apostrophes to Man Ray and his ""Rayograms""; and ""Harvest""--the book makes Galassi's thoughtful devotion to craft abundantly clear, with careful rhymes and smooth meters to be found in nearly every poem. Most of the non-Man Ray poems reflect the concerns of a sort of Dreamworksian middle-aged everyman, whether dithyrambically imploring a lover to ""fill my shell/ with your phenomenal/ pheromone broth"" or contemplating, on ""Turning Fifty,"" the ""Wife won, house built, new generation launched/ (and, much to your credit, still no dog)/ with wondrous works and days, all numbered, catalogued "" Whiffs of portent darken some of the poems, but are for the most part brushed aside by contentment (""Thank You""; ""Hymn"") or wonder at life's cycles (""View""; ""The Man on the Raft""). These genial verses don't hit the level of intensity for which they aim, but they are genuinely reflective and refined. (Mar.) FYI: Galassi is publisher and editor-in-chief of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and chairman of the board of directors at the Academy of American Poets.
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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