DOCTOR JAZZ

Hayden Carruth, Author . Copper Canyon $18 (135p) ISBN 978-1-55659-163-1

Octogenarian poet Carruth, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey, and whose anthology The Voice That Is Great Within Us remains a stalwart of 20th-century American modernism, is a familiar and respected figure on the lit scene, having overcome decades of psychological and physical illnesses to find himself still productive in old age. His Collected Shorter Poems (which will be reissued by Copper Canyon on the occasion of this new collection's appearance) and Collected Longer Poems are highly individual, cranky, even cussed, but always with a unique voice, sometimes a highly moving one, and occasionally quite funny. This new collection's emotional center is a 15-page-long poem in memory of the poet's daughter Martha, who died of cancer in her 40s. Other sections, like "Afterlife," "Basho" and "Faxes" have Carruth speaking plainly to a variety of interlocutors, in lines of varying lengths. "While Reading Basho," with its modern-style haiku, has some of the jauntiness of Carruth at his crustiest: "Basho, you made/ a living writing haiku?/ Wow ! Way to go, man." Asian writers seem to be of particular significance, as in "The Afterlife: Remembering Fucking," which concludes: "Great enigma, I not knowing what orgasm/ Felt like to you and you not knowing what/ Orgasm felt like for me—the impenetrable/ Mystery. 'Everything is possible,' Chuang-tzu/ Said, 'If one only gives oneself to another.'" It's not at all clear who will be interested in remembering such encounters with the poet, but as it is, the very appearance of another book will please this prolific writer's many fans. Others unfamiliar with his verse would do better starting off with earlier and more consistent work. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 08/06/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
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