cover image The House of Blue Light

The House of Blue Light

David Kirby. Louisiana State University Press, $22.5 (88pp) ISBN 978-0-8071-2616-5

The quadumvirate of men--Stephen Dunn, Tony Hoagland, Billy Collins and Albert Goldbarth--who provide blurbs for Kirby's fifth collection reads like a who's who of the book's poetic influences. Talky, jokey and carefully lineated, Kirby's vignettes unabashedly celebrate middle-class writing life, middle-aged male life and middle-to-high-brow cultural life, while simultaneously deflating all three. With titles like ""Catholic Teenager from Hell Goes to Italy,"" ""Roman Polanski's Cookies,"" ""Excellent Women"" and ""Moderation Kills (Excusez-Moi, Je Suis Sick as a Dog),"" Kirby's consistent speaker takes delight in a quotidian that flashes back to his southern childhood, college and grad lives, and forward to TV-watching and movie-going experiences, his university post and a sojourn in Paris with a poet-wife named Barbara. (Kirby teaches at Florida State University, reviews frequently for the TLS and NYTBR, and is married to the poet Barbara Hamby.) He is preoccupied with the sex people have, and the things they break (""Teacher of the Year"") and noises they make (""Heat Lightning"") in flagrante, while wishing ""I could relax and just let myself go more/ and not be so, uh, obsessive about everything."" Relentlessly accessible, the poems always tell a good story, whether about how friend Jock DuBois had a plan for Catholic domination of the U.S., how ""Sugar"" can annoyingly become ""Shoog"" or how to reach the dead: ""Hey Dad! Over here! In France!/ No, France! Great country! Great cheese."" They can be mildly entertaining, and are disarming in their lack of pretense and posturing. (Nov.)