The Man Who Died En Route

Nell Altizer, Author University of Massachusetts Press $8.95 (57p) ISBN 978-0-87023-646-4
Though ranging far and wide in manner and matter, from sonnet sequence to elegy, from literary exercise to love song, and from 1855 to the present, the bulk of Altizer's first collection is merely clever and accomplished, and does not bear a maker's individual mark. There are exceptions: in ``Maude's Lullaby'' the poet has wrought a lyric as heartfelt as it is formally finished, and in ``Heather'' and ``Coda'' she narrates first-person epiphanies with resounding delicacy (``The bird's-nest fern unfolds another foetus beat of green''). But elsewhere, Altizer's ambitious efforts falter; a dramatic monologue written in the voice of Charlotte Bronte, for example, mimics but fails to bring its central character to life. Poems set in Hawaii and those recounting cultural rites seem staged, constructing and assuming without revealing intimate knowledge. A categorically colloquial poem about sex and death in Florida gives Altizer practice in another genre. As if daring herself to jump through technical hoops, the poet turns in a competitive but inauthentic performance. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1989
Release date: 04/01/1989
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