The Known World

Don Bogen, Author Wesleyan University Press $14.95 (79p) ISBN 978-0-8195-2237-5
Bogen (The Splendid Display, 1986) works on a wide canvas, depicting past eras (in moments) to suggest illuminations for the present, as in the opening poem ""Slum Corner"": ""On Vine Street the Dickensian splendor/ of the Omega Plasma Center./ Here are your eccentrics, your waifs/ in dangling mufflers and too-short topcoats/... bees drained twice a week/ of their dense honey."" In his effort to establish the presence of the past, Bogen's detailed portrayals focus as much on surroundings as on people. Amid the columns, mirrors and misty fountains of ""The Palace at Granada,"" the past ""...blooms/ in a geometric/ ceiling, enlivens/ a door frame..."" while in the dusty old-world auberge of ""A Waiting Room in Vienna,"" amid a ""spread of things, stolid, hierarchical,"" he observes that ""time blurs its edge."" The concreteness is invigorating, but Bogen's unchanging stance and tendency to declare meaning can dull the reading. ""Salver"" examines a bone china tray, rimmed in gold: ""preserved, it will preserve,"" Bogen teaches us, and adds ""completed, it will outlast us."" The long title poem, which sensuously conjures up the 19th century, is burdened with abstractions about imperialism and suffering; immediacy is further blunted when punctuation is called upon to clarify irony, as in the phrase, ""the `dark' continent."" Bogen's need to explain and conclude diminishes the native tension of his clear-eyed observations. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/24/1997
Release date: 03/01/1997
Hardcover - 79 pages - 978-0-8195-2233-7
Open Ebook - 79 pages - 978-0-8195-7184-7
Open Ebook - 81 pages - 978-0-585-37562-5
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