The Invention of the Zero: Poems

Richard Kenney, Author Knopf Publishing Group $20 (158p) ISBN 978-0-679-41991-4
Kenney's ( Orrery ) third book offers prize-winning poems, but it is an odd amalgam of the language of Joseph Conrad and Herman Melville raised to fever pitch. The four long poems of the book are narratives, though their events serve largely as the basis for a rhetoric that may distance the reader from Kenney's dramatic intentions. In the longest poem, ``The Encantadas,'' the captain of an anti-aircraft battery located in the Galapagos Islands during W. W. II chronicles his time there, pushing the tension in the tale. ``Typhoon,'' an account of ships lost in a storm, is about ``a hundred twenty war- / ships held in close formation,'' more than about the destruction of human life. Kenney fills all his poems with admirable turns of language (``we xylophoned / tin cups across the ringing iron meridians / from home''), but does not always choose to involve us in mystery on a human scale. The book opens and ends with quotes from physicists, and the title poem describes the first atomic bomb blast. Kenney ends the poem: ``--the day they lanced / the surfaces of things, and bled from a fist / of warm earth the quick inhuman light of stars.'' That ``inhuman light'' seems to be his poetic focus. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 158 pages - 978-0-679-74997-4
Hardcover - 978-0-517-17422-7
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