Blue Tango: Poems

Michael Van Walleghen, Author University of Illinois Press $13.95 (104p) ISBN 978-0-252-06044-1
Tightly contained in distinctive two-line stanzas, these poems confront the poet's past and present, evoking ambivalence, anger and tenderness without excess. Van Wallenghen ( The Wichita Poems ) packs clean, sharp images and unusual detail into narrative; he takes risks, revealing a fascination with society's aberrants (a 400-pound man, childhood pariahs, alcoholics) and finding no subject taboo. Of a visit to a slaughterhouse, he remembers ``all that precious offal / grocery stores disdained-- / whole hog heads for headcheese / fresh duck blood, fresh feet / . . . my father's friend would shout / above the squealing, bleating / foaming panic of the animals.'' By paralleling memories of his childhood experiences with ruminations on his own daughter's behavior, Van Wallenghen concludes that fundamental responses don't change over time: fear and uncertainty always hover; though they can't be mastered, they can be understood--``You'd have to be four years old / and afraid so far of nothing / in this life but monsters / big dogs and snakes to trust / this hanging on, this tilting world.'' (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1989
Release date: 02/01/1989
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