cover image Not for Specialists: New and Selected Poems

Not for Specialists: New and Selected Poems

W. D. Snodgrass, . . BOA, $27.95 (251pp) ISBN 978-1-929918-77-5

Snodgrass made his splash with Heart's Needle (1959), a careful sequence of rhymed poems about his marital troubles and his daughter: the volume helped create so-called "confessional poetry" and won a Pulitzer Prize. Snodgrass gave his later allegiance not to autobiography, but to technique, pursuing, on the one hand, sad, clear, lyrical poems and rueful epigrams, and on the other, ambitious if not quixotic multipoem projects. Among the former, most of the best are brand new: they take on subjects as disparate as twilight fireflies, the war in Iraq, hip replacements and the man who stole Snodgrass's credit card, in styles indebted to poets as different as Andrew Marvell and A.R. Ammons. One Ammons-like work is "The Führer Bunker," a cycle of poems about, and spoken by, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goering, Adolf Hitler and other members of Hitler's inner circle, completed in 1995. As if in reaction to that grim, ambitious achievement, other pieces here feature graceful measures and a light touch: a quartet of seasonal odes breathes new life into very old topics. This is a judicious selection from a significant oeuvre. (Apr.)