THE PERISHING

Sherod Santos, Author . Norton $21.95 (88p) ISBN 978-0-393-05166-7

The follow-up to National Book Award finalist The Pilot Star Elegies shows the neo-Romantic poet tilting at more difficult targets, his traditional forms creating a sense of unease rather than Santos's more familiar wistful resignation. The primary movement of this fifth book is a see-saw between an angst-ridden, but calm, epistolary search ("how good the sun feels in its absence") and the eruption of violence from without: "the epic/ Bosch-like register of death and human suffering." As one poem paints a simple scene of the poet's teenage son, "his radio headphones still on," the triptych that follows ruminates on the deaths of loved ones, and a long poem imagines Pol Pot tracing a lineage of genocide through Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Tamerlane. Somewhat more obscure verses follow, though Santos's lyric chops are still well in evidence in lines such as " a moon-lit runoff/ Less like spilled water than the dispossessing ghost/ Of water sluicing down the gutters and away." In expanding his concerns to the social and political, Santos oddly tends towards insularity. But if this book is less coherent and accessible than Pilot Star, its promise is far greater, showing the poet striving toward a more complex understanding of his chosen medium: "a lost/ Cuneiform of burnished signs whose meanings/ We've somehow unknowingly become." (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/04/2002
Release date: 01/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 84 pages - 978-0-393-32576-8
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