What is Beyond Us: Poems

Karen Fish, Author Harper Perennial $22 (62p) ISBN 978-0-06-055336-4
This slim volume touches on love and love-making, the illusion and disillusionment bound in the love for one's parents, imaginary portraits of ancestors whose lives were defined by hardship, the anticipation of childbirth and its pain. Like many other contemporary poets, Fish ( The Cedar Canoe ) develops her poems by recalling small details from the past (``It was my fourteenth birthday and I remember it all / like a lover with a photographic memory recalls a physical body''). She seems uncomfortable in the present, in the world of modern technology and harsh colors. Thus the poems are full of Canada geese and ducks, nostalgia for hollyhock and larkspur. Fish presents the events of our time in a dispirited tone and a corresponding awkwardness of expression. These may be heartfelt poems, but they are unambitious. While they are spun off of memories, they never examine the complications of memory, which can be illusive and imperfect. The most disappointing aspect of the book is its glibness (``If men are jealous of anything / it is the everyday miracle of ordinary birth ''). Too often, the speaker makes sweeping, conventional generalizations and the poems stall in her rhetoric. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
Paperback - 62 pages - 978-0-06-096953-0
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