In Beauty Bright

Gerald Stern. Norton, $25.95 (96p) ISBN 978-0-393-08644-7
This late collection—Stern is 87—is an astonishing addition to the canon of a poet whose status as a major figure is already assured. Like the late poems of Wallace Stevens, the poems here display the poet’s gifts by taking another step into the empyrean of sheer mastery. One such gift is Stern’s syntactical momentum: lines propel themselves forward, phrases tumbling with sloppy grace: “In beauty bright and such it was like Blake’s/ lily and though an angel he looked absurd/ dragging a lily out of a beauty bright store/ wrapped in tissue.” Another is the way poems burst forth, borne on tiny prepositional capes: “In the way Ovid lectured,” “How God in three religions rode,” “Then, fifty dollars for a Hungarian.” A third is Stern’s command of a dozen registers—dream logic, contemplation, reference, remembrance—woven in endlessly surprising, undulating sentences. These poems contain multitudes, but a long memory is perhaps most conspicuously on display. Here are nostalgia poems on New York City, Robert Duncan, and Eleanor Roosevelt; Eddie Cantor, government cheese, and Jack Johnson all make appearances. These poems are as beautiful and bright as anything out there. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/16/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
Paperback - 125 pages - 978-0-393-34894-1
Open Ebook - 96 pages - 978-0-393-08975-2
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