Torque

David Rivard, Author University of Pittsburgh Press $0 (61p) ISBN 978-0-8229-3595-7
Published in the Pitt Poetry Series, this winner of the 1987 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize is empowered by the vitality of its imagery and by the author's volatile, at times explosive, tone. Each poem tells a story, examining childhood memories, family relationships and the details of daily life by encapsulating moments and emotions. Combining the colloquial with the cerebral, the verses are replete with dramatic tension, which stems both from the bold use of language and from startling symbolism. In ``Late?'' for example, Rivard juxtaposes a bleak urban landscape with religious iconography to depict the corruption of ideals: ``And, on the corner variety / store's wall, a crude, sun-washed mural of the angel Gabriel / defaced by thick black sideburns so he looks like a street punk, / a strutting cholo, so he seems the only creature on earth / who hasn't heard the news that everything can be lost.'' Unfortunately, the author does not sustain an incisive, high-voltage quality throughout, and those poems wherein metaphor is subverted by idiom fall flat. He observes in ``The Temptations'': ``I'm far enough inside myself / that I am not myself. Not a man / who notices most what's missing. / And, Jesus, whatever is not mine, / or gone, or stolen from me, / sticks in my throat, / so I'm forced to always talk about it.'' On the whole, though, this collection marks the debut of a talent worth watching. (October)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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