cover image Enchantée


Angie Estes. Oberlin College, $15.95 paper (80p) ISBN 978-0932440-41-9

Scenes from central Paris, lines from Dante’s Purgatorio, puns and chains of euphonies, queues of gondoliers, puns in Italian, sonic associations and internal rhymes as intricate as silver filigree: these effects of extreme, self-conscious, often European-identified beauty work in this fifth book from Estes (Tryst) not just as ways to delight on their own, but as counterpoints to the mortality and the mourning (especially for her mother and father) that give the book its gravity. Outdoors at night, “Like denizens/ of the cadenza, cicadas scratching/ their cicatrices, a star shines until day/ begins to lighten the sky, the shining/ gone through the star remains”: the star in turn suggests the poet’s ill mother, whose dementia reminds Estes how “In Paradise,/ Dante says, we will have only a memory/ of having had a memory, now lost.” Renaissance culture and literature cannot stop the pain, but nothing else can, and so Estes commits her poetry at once to the pursuit of older beauty, acoustic beauty, architectural beauty, even the frivolous beauty of “Dessert,” and to the telling of present truth, from Southern American funerals to Sienese illuminations and French baritones. James Merrill, Amy Clampitt and Gjertrud Schnackenberg all won praise, and sparked controversy, for their elaboration; Estes shares some of their challenges, should please their readers, and belongs in their stellar company. (Nov.)