Babylon in Jar CL: Avail in Paper

Andrew Hudgins, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $22 (96p) ISBN 978-0-395-90994-2
Casting a bemused eye on both ordinary and extraordinary experience, the poet of this fifth collection reports his discoveries in poems brimming with charm--and rigorous technique. Throughout, expressive line breaks and syntax combine with an everyday vocabulary to create a tone that beckons and disarms. One never struggles or puzzles over a Hudgins poem, but instead chuckles at the quandary of housekeys snagged on a power line (""Keys""), contemplates a neighbor's tree festooned with bottle glass (""The Bottle Tree"") or reflects on the murder of a kindly jeweler (""How to Stop""). Unfortunately, even Hudgins's technical virtuosity cannot offset the colorlessness of his language, resulting in few lines or poems that resonate in a reader's memory. Too often Hudgins's subjects and treatment of them lack emotional urgency, lapsing into wordy narratives and descriptions, or merely interesting epiphanies. (A poem that begins crisply with the narrator saving the accidentally spilled ashes of a girl he once ""flirted with/ ungracefully a time or two"" ends with him disposing of them because ""they are sheer dust/ and should be honored as the dust they are."") Some readers might detect a philosophical subtlety beneath these casual surfaces, only to be dropped back into formulaic confessional narrative by the end of the poem. One closes the book feeling entertained--often wonderfully so--but unmoved, unchanged. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/03/1998
Release date: 08/01/1998
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 80 pages - 978-0-618-12697-2
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