cover image Those I Guard

Those I Guard

Karl Kirchwey, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P $18.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-15-190170-8

After a few inconsequential poems about growing up in the 1950s and '60s, Kirchwey's speakers join the frivolous jet set, dropping the names of European or Greek towns in titles and subtitles of poems that have no other reference to a foreign landscape. Despite a highly polished surface, this debut collection by the director of the Poetry Center at Manhattan's 92nd Street Y often suggests much ado about nothing. A spider is superficially described as ``physicist and acrobat.'' Words seem straight out of the dictionary--``neuralgic,'' ``tonsorial''--they are not inappropriate, just unnecessarily showy. Rhymes are another superficial stunt not integral to the poems in which they are used. Attempts to link contemporary brutality with Greek mythology appear unintentionally ironic. Thus the news story of an infant thrown into an incinerator recalls Hera dropping her infant son off Mt. Olympus. But the most frustrating aspect of Kirchwey's poems is his tendency to break up sentences with asides, as in these opening lines: ``One evening--it will be just before winter's end,/ your neighbor coughing all night in the room below,/ who has aged forty years since December--/ reading about Parian marble, your hearing will quicken. . . . '' Readers, drawn in by a poem's lyrical, circuitous mood, reach its end with no awareness of what took place. (Nov.)