What We Don't Know about Each Other

Lawrence Raab, Author Puffin Books $12 (96p) ISBN 978-0-14-058701-2
The supernatural moves to the forefront in Raab's ( Other Children ) fourth collection: ghosts, angels, outer space, dreams. While such topics prompt mediocre poets into cliches, Raab's highly lyrical meditations are so concrete that readers are sucked into his magical netherworld. He opens a long sequential poem, for example, by issuing the directive to ``Look at what we're looking at / right now--that tree, that hill. / Who can see it for itself?'' Presented in this context, even mundane objects assume an ethereal aspect: crows in a snowstorm, a dog, dead trees. The poet's alternating use of a collective ``we'' in referring to the speaker and an all-encompassing ``you'' for those addressed provides an innovative variation on what would otherwise be a hackneyed style. In the book's final 20 pages, where the poet addresses various family members by name, universal concepts such as beauty and truth take on a greater specificity. His musings reach their climax in a poem dedicated to an older brother. Here, his poetic powers at their height, the speaker questions what went wrong between them, imagines all the experiences they might have shared, and for the first time initiates conversation with this sibling who died before his own birth. Selected for the National Poetry Series by Stephen Dunn. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/28/1993
Release date: 07/01/1993
Genre: Fiction
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