Figures for the Ghost: Poems

Scott Cairns, Author University of Georgia Press $14.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8203-1601-7
This book of poems is a quiet, thoughtful excavation of the past. The voice of Cairns ( The Translation of Babel ) is conversational and coaxing--confiding in us secrets that seem to be our own. In ``The Turning of Lot's Wife,'' one of the numerous poems in which Cairns adroitly recasts Biblical characters and themes, Lot's wife ``saw that she could / not turn her back on even one doomed child of the city, but / must turn her back instead upon the saved.'' Comfortably weaving between his own personal past, classical myth and Christian theology, Cairns shows a disarming ability to gain the reader's ear with a murmuring tone. Listening, we hear a speaker of wry directness. For example, in ``The History of My Late Progress,'' Cairns describes his own brush with a heart attack: `` I thought I was a goner . / Not really. / No one, I guess, ever really thinks that. / The closest we come is this uncanny, / dispassionate sitting-back, just watching / to see how we'll be saved.'' At times, his lines lose their tightness and fall toward prose. But Figures for the Ghost is the work of a writer who seems to have spent a long time listening before reporting what he has heard. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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