Harping on: Poems, 1985-1995

Carolyn Kizer, Author Copper Canyon Press $12 (70p) ISBN 978-1-55659-115-0
Kizer's distinctly irreverent voice, left-leaning politics and mastery of the poetic craft are all showcased in this selection of her poetry and translations spanning a decade. Her frequent use of first-person narrative sounds a more autobiographical than confessional tone. The speaker (who calls herself, in ""Fin-de-Siecle Blues,"" an ""old lady"") considers her past: youthful hatred of Franco while visiting his war memorial; a longtime friend's battle with cancer and death; and figures from childhood such as a beloved, inscrutable Swedish nanny. Along the way, Kizer employs everything from slanted rhymes to venerable forms like the villanelle and pantoum with a chatty grace that makes the intricacy of her structures all but invisible. Some poems emit a clear whiff of political correctness; e.g., ""On a Line from Valery,"" which takes the French poet's line, ""Tout le ciel vert se muert,"" and turns it into a lament for the environmental destruction brought by the Gulf War. Usually, however, Kizer's ample wit and formal dexterity distinguish her as a poet not merely of sensitivity but, more importantly, of fine sensibility. She is absolutely in her element when translating--and spoofing the act thereof. ""In Hell with Virg and Dan,"" her version of Dante's Canto VXII, was rejected--""quite properly,"" she concedes--from the Ecco Press's volume of contemporary poets' translations of The Inferno for ""not fitting in."" In it, she wields her so-called ""Antique Hipster"" style: ""Yo, Dan, just give a look at this repulsive creature/ Called Fraud, the wall-buster; He's the prime polluter."" This is priceless, quintessential Kizer. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
Hardcover - 70 pages - 978-1-55659-114-3
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