The Island

Michael White, Author Copper Canyon Press $10 (80p) ISBN 978-1-55659-050-4
The majority of the work in this debut collection is elegiac, with poems written in memory of or in homage to loved ones, friends and writers who have affected the direction of White's own writing. In many cases the poems are stately in their construction, polished works filled with descriptions of mountain passes, oceans and rivers: ``Down from the mountains, down from Catherine's Pass, / Cloud shadows, rolling transparencies, flowed over / The glacier lakes; and the wind raked the granite upthrusts, / Shivered the backs of the sunshot lupine meadows . . . '' The language is mature and dense, though often disturbingly uncontemporary, as in the opening poem, with its fine image of children's toys left out on dusty lawns ``in random, upflung attitudes of exultation.'' The figures that the speaker presents are haunting and the accuracy of detail is laudable, but this is undercut by a kind of pedantry of expression. White is interested in the fleeting beauty of this life. He records its shifting light and rippling water with dexterity, and yet in the heavy cadences and ornamental description, he often constructs a damper that checks the vitality of the story he wants to tell. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 07/01/1992
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