Firefall

Mona Van Duyn, Author Alfred A. Knopf $20 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-41897-9
U.S. poet laureate Van Duyn, a formalist who casts most of her poems in elegant meter and rhyme, commands the attention of her readers through their ears. In Firefall , her first book since the Pulitzer Prize-winning Near Changes , the poetry works beautifully when its momentum echoes her concerns, as in the elegies for friends, her reflection on a child's sympathy in ``The Delivery'' and a lovely picture of a woman's coming-of-age in ``Falls.'' But the newer verse forms she develops in the same book muffle the richness of her voice, making her sound almost like an ersatz Emily Dickinson. Almost half of Firefall is comprised of work in these new forms, including Van Duyn's ``minimalist sonnet translations of, or comments on,'' famous poems by Eliot, Frost, Auden and others. Stronger work is found in If It Be Not I : light fills lines written about her parents in ``Remedies, Maladies, Reasons,'' and she covers new ground by risking anger and the disagreeable. Van Duyn is particularly powerful when she turns a glaring light on herself and survives the harshness of her own honesty. In her verse about illness she convinces us that ``--To trust perception again is like learning to lean / on water.'' (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/1992
Release date: 12/01/1992
Paperback - 83 pages - 978-0-679-75280-6
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