A Flower Whose Name I Do Not Know

David Romtvedt, Author Copper Canyon Press $10 (80p) ISBN 978-1-55659-046-7
Selected for the National Poetry series by John Haines, this volume includes family history and poems about childhood as well as work informed by Romtvedt's ( Moon ) adult experiences: his opposition to the draft during the Vietnam War, his work in the Peace Corps in Africa and his protest against the Trident nuclear submarine base on Puget Sound. Happily, the poems are free of polemics. Rather, they demonstrate Romtvedt's sympathy for the spectrum of humanity, from the nameless victims of Guatemalan terrorism to Soviet poet Osip Mandelstam, who died in Stalin's Gulag. One of the most compelling poems describes how the poet's grandmother and her sisters were forced as children to stand in a row in their living room while their father aimed a rifle at them. The poem ends with the haunting refrain, ``It was winter and we skated, the ice so clear it was blue.'' Technically, the volume is eclectic. The opening poem is written in a deadpan and prosaic voice, but the title poem, with its dreamy image of a flower floating in darkness, is surreal. Although the language is well chosen and seems musically correct throughout, the numerous shifts of voice and sensibility are troubling. (July)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
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