Essay: A Critical Memoir

Donald Revell. Omnidawn (UPNE, dist.), $17.95 trade paper (64p) ISBN 978-1-63243-001-4
Revell (Tantivy), in his 12th poetry collection (which is actually more of a hybrid essay/memoir/prose poem), reminds readers that “hesitation and delay must never be mistaken for rest.” At turns memoir and literary analysis, allegory and reenactment, this fragmented and deeply personal exploration of memory and literature’s place in the soul resembles a type of scrapbook book that asks, “Who’s crazy? Whose pomp is prophetic?” Revell’s prose is a contemplative, forceful incorporation of disparate elements: a dervish at half speed that absorbs and refigures Dante, Thoreau, Shakespeare, old photographs, the Vietnam War, and more into a love letter to reading, a pageant of deliberate contemplation and devotion. “Am I afraid to cross over the river without my Virgil—my allusions, my heralds and cross-references? I must read more. Am I afraid to die? I must love more.” Unable to contain itself, Revell’s work challenges and denies more than just its generic conventions; it takes to task the notion that reading and storytelling can be anything less than transformative—which therefore makes them essential. Here, acts of language are recognized and honored as the stuff of time, of movement, of a life. This text functions as a proof that “Even in times of imageless darkness and confusion, the sounds of words lead on to kindly light.” (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/16/2015
Release date: 04/01/2015
Genre: Fiction
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