cover image This Afterlife

This Afterlife

A.E. Stallings. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (240p) ISBN 978-0-374-60069-3

In this generous selected, translator and poet Stallings (Like) gathers poems from her first four books, as well as previously uncollected poems and translations of George Seferis and Angelos Sikilianos. Spanning 25 years, the oeuvre proves consistent in its adherence to metered rhyme and unabashed allegiance to Greco-Roman sources (“I bow to the yoke/ of making” and “I am/ doctor not of medicine,/ but Latinity,” the poet asserts). Readers unversed in classical philology and linguistics may find themselves reaching for a dictionary: “Paradigmatic summers that decline/ Like singular archaic nouns”; “He cursed in the fricative,/ The way she could not act./ Or live in the indicative,/ Only contrary to fact.” Persona poems abound, fixed especially on female figures from Western myth, while a poem addressed to “women poets” suggests a dual identification: “You who are both Orpheus/ And She he left in Hell.” In “Jigsaw Puzzle” she writes: “Slowly you restore/ The fractured world and start/ To re-create an afternoon before/ It fell apart” Aesthetic and intellectual pleasures are everywhere in this considerable work. (Dec.)