Keith Waldrop, Author . Litmus $15 (230p) ISBN 978-0-9723331-0-8

Co-publisher of 25-year-old Burning Deck Press, professor of English at Brown University and recipient of the rank of Chevalier des arts et des letters by the French government, Waldrop is an eminence grise of experimental American poetry, and the conduit through which dozens of younger poets have discovered the international avant-garde. In his 16th collection, dedicated to the Oulipo-associated writer Jacques Roubaud, Waldrop collects seven serial poems, meditations on being and nothingness, in the persona of a philosopher in his twilight years. Not wishing to recapitulate the past, and seeing only forgetting and death in the future, the poems focus almost preternaturally on the still point of the present, so that "From one window to the next the seasons turn round—spring flowers in the front yard while the kitchen gives onto ice and snow." Waldrop's lines are as clean as Williams's, if more Euclidean. And despite his explorations of linguistic logic, it is the things of this world, like a red traffic light, that serve as beacons of faith and joy. There is no irritable reaching after mystical lyricism in this Kansas-born student of French poetry, just the austere eloquence inherent in the search for a stable metaphysics that could occupy the place of spiritual solace, if not (as it happens, the last word in the book) redemption. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 02/17/2003
Release date: 01/01/2002
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