cover image Between Angels: Poems

Between Angels: Poems

Stephen Dunn. W. W. Norton & Company, $15.95 (111pp) ISBN 978-0-393-02691-7

His seventh collection confirms Dunn ( Local Time ) as a metaphysical poet of the quotidian, a secular George Herbert. Like earlier metaphysicals, he dwells on the curious ambivalence harbored in abstractions; discursive poems like ``Tenderness,'' ``Kindness,'' ``Forgiveness'' and ``Happiness'' render timeworn concepts dramatically convincing, manifesting Dunn's belief that ``abstractions are just abstract/until they have an ache in them.'' Happiness is pictured ``with its perfect bridge above / the crocodiles, / and its doors forever open,'' loneliness as a ``contorted, pocked, terribly ugly man / shopping in the 24-hour supermarket.'' True to the title, angels descend into the best poems ``like invisible friends / you could count on''; they mediate the uneasy gap between our desires and reality, guarding human frailty ``among the bittersweet / efforts of people to connect, / make sense, endure.'' Only rarely do the poet's epigrammatic tercets and crisp stanzas falter into affected conceits and flat platitudes. An accessible blend of the lyrical and literal, Dunn's poetry discovers a world worth his subtle praises amid the difficulties of daily life. (May)