Four Incarnations: New and Selected Poems 1959-1991

Robert Sward, Author Coffee House Press $14.95 (144p) ISBN 978-0-918273-90-1
Introducing these poems, Sward writes that in 1966 he was ``hit by a speeding MG'' and lost his memory for 24 hours. Curiously though, Sward's poems, even prior to his accident, manifest a kind of amnesiac's perspective on the world. Many poems in Kissing the Dancer discover an alarming novelty in experience using a child's syntax. In ``The Kite,'' a woman who has just hung herself is described as, simply, ``skypaper, way up / too high to pull down.'' In ``At Jim McConkey's Farm,'' Sward's unusual takes on reality evoke a Zen-like calm. ``Overwhelmed by the complexities of skunk cabbage,'' the poem's speaker suddenly realizes that ``at this moment / for this day even, we have belonged here.'' At times Sward's technique gives his poems a disorienting and diffuse quality: ``children screaming and feeling slighted / The next minute we're walking along canals on the planet Mars.'' In two inventive new poems, however, Sward's style is at its best. ``Basketball's the American Game Because It's Hysterical'' uses the sport to discuss poetic prosody, and ``On My Way to the Korean War . . .'' depicts the levitation of ``2,000 battle-ready troops.'' (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1991
Release date: 07/01/1991
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