Save the Last Dance

Gerald Stern, Author . Norton $23.95 (91p) ISBN 978-0-393-06612-8

Honored for his plainspoken, blue-collar manner—its honesty, and the literary learning it belies—Stern, born in 1925, is now writing his strongest, strangest poems. Like 2005's Everything Is Burning , this collection displays passionate attachments—to daily pleasures, poets living and dead whom Stern has befriended (especially in a warm elegy for William Matthews) and memory itself. In 1946, one poem remembers, “I was a bellows/ and one by one my lungs were ruined but I wouldn't/ change my life, what for?” The short poems mostly comprise single, extended sentences, piling up Stern's gruff loves and recollections faster than death and old age can knock them down: a poem about a weather vane finds Stern “amazed/ that we could last the way we do compared to/ birds just blown by the wind.” The scenes in this 17th collection come from his youth in Philadelphia and New York City, and from exurban New Jersey, where he lives now. The final section, a long poem in dialogue form entitled “The Preacher,” imagines a conversation with the younger poet Peter Richards, whose subjects include Kant, Mingus, the uses of anger and the variety of wildflowers; it may not stick in many readers' memories, but the short poems before it certainly will. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/19/2008
Release date: 05/01/2008
Paperback - 91 pages - 978-0-393-33731-0
Open Ebook - 80 pages - 978-0-393-06998-3
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