Kleinzahler’s first since his new-and-selected Sleeping It Off in Rapid City (2008) finds the peripatetic, polymathic, and sometimes dyspeptic poet in terrific form. He is known for his poems about places, and his native North Jersey shows up again here along with rail trips and midair realizations, the snowy battlefields of 19th-century Russia, a totally empty American town whose clouds look like “Outsize JumboTron screens,” a Denny’s (“Do you suppose, in the beginning, there was an actual Denny?”), and “Hollyhocks in the Fog” in his adoptive home of San Francisco—“red purple apricot/ solitary as widows or disgraced metaphysicians.” Stranger and just as compelling as these locales are new installments of Kleinzahler’s continuing series “A History of Western Music,” including onomatopoetic verse about bebop (“YAHTZEE YAHTZEE SWEET DEW-DROPSIE”) and a backhanded tribute to the songsmith who crafted hits for “Celine Dion, Cher, Michael Bolton, Faith Hill” (the poet’s second career as a jazz critic comes in handy here). Like the clouds and the travelers in his own poems, Kleinzahler’s temperament comes and goes—some will find it delightfully grown up, others unfortunately will find it bitter; his moments of tenderness, toward his own jaded self and toward strangers, come as relief. What stays, and what ought to impress any reader, are the range and the command that Kleinzahler has over so many flavors and kinds of American English. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 06/24/2013 Release date: 10/01/2013 Genre: Fiction
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