The History of Forgetting

Lawrence Raab, Author . Penguin $18 (97p) ISBN 978-0-14-311582-3

Raab’s seventh outing pursues the same theme throughout, in tones as subdued as the subject is harrowing: the poems concern the end of everything—human life, humanity as a species, all that we can be or know or do. “A child dies, love fades, then friendship,/ and soon enough almost everything is gone,” says “Nothing There”; ”The God of Snow” concludes, regretfully, “that it had all started out so well.” Environmental destruction plays a role, too, in these pessimistic tableaux, which at their best recall Thomas Hardy: like Hardy’s, though, Raab’s sadness is finally personal and has something to do with advancing age. “The sea encourages me/ to think about the past,” he writes, “as if I could leave it where it is.” His free verse and restrained diction complement his conversational phrasing. There are glimmers of humor as well: “The life of the Japanese beetle/ is pointless and ugly.” Raab was a poet to watch in the 1970s, when his early, mildly surrealist collections drew extravagant praise: he has since settled down into quieter modes, the poems’ lack of sparkle offset—and then some—by the quality of pathos within their lines. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/18/2009
Release date: 05/01/2009
Genre: Fiction
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