George Bradley, Author . Knopf $23 (80p) ISBN 978-0-375-41195-3

James Tate meets James Merrill as technical competence, wry digs and surreal image-play triumph over self-questioning and actual engagement in Bradley's fourth collection. Bradley (The Fire Fetched Down) won the Yale Younger Poets award in 1985, went on to edit the series' 1998 anthology, and is here backed by a blurb from Yale don Harold Bloom that invokes the above JM (as well as the ever-invoked JA—John Ashbery). Bradley does have formal and imagistic chops, much in evidence in the book's second poem, "Autochthons Are Standing By": "If their eyes grown wide as orbs of herbivores/ Searched for his freak flamboyance, dread device... / Whinging pup, pubescent klutz, no nubile maid/ Ablush with tenderness and embarrassment of thought..." But thought does indeed seem an embarrassment to be consciously skirted throughout. The sonnet sequence "A Year in New England" veers into Billy Collins's signature pseudo-schmaltz, "Over a new world asked to readjust/ Snow comes down as miraculous as dust." The long sendup "How I Got in the Business" comically juxtaposes mob-backed olive oil sales with poetic self-presentation, without quite managing to dis the hallowed bildung trinity of Cambridge, Mass.'s Grolier Poetry Book Shop, the New Yorker and the 92nd Street Y. The mid-career nostalgic satire continues in "A Poet in the Kitchen," which riffs on being young and not-very affluent in the big city ("New York City was flat broke./ I, too, was broke, the flat was free"). The speaker finds himself in a storage space for a burgeoning art gallery, where "truth be told, it was hard to tell/ where art might end and garbage start." Readers will have some of the same trouble here. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 06/04/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
Genre: Poetry
Paperback - 73 pages - 978-0-375-70947-0
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