cover image Shooting the Works: On Poetry and Pictures

Shooting the Works: On Poetry and Pictures

W. S. Di Piero. Triquarterly Books, $18 (222pp) ISBN 978-0-8101-5052-2

In this wide-ranging collection of essays, art criticism, memoirs and notebook excerpts, poet and essayist Di Piero (The Dog Star; Memory and Enthusiasm) continues to explore his lifelong passions--literary and visual art--from a personal perspective. He writes not as a detached scholar but as a working poet and art lover who, while highly knowledgeable about his subjects, is always aware of how they figure in his own experience. In ""Poetry and Sauerkraut,"" he mixes memoir with social critique as he reviews, with some ambivalence, his youth in a working-class Italian American neighborhood in South Philadelphia, and how his growing awareness of the world of literature, art and the creative intellect both enabled his escape and effected his estrangement from that world (""I have never shed that instinct for and anxiety about the incipient babble in sentences""). In the title essay, he considers the uses of such elements as charm, laughter, uncertainty and accident in poetry. Other essays discuss poets as disparate as Pound, Carruth, McGrath and Muir and the Hopi oral tradition. The book's second section addresses the visual arts, from Florentine religious painting to (at greater length) recent and contemporary art and photography. Di Piero's taste and judgments are refreshingly idiosyncratic, his frame of reference broad. If his approach is impressionistic rather than strictly logical, it's because he is more concerned with communicating his insights and enthusiasms than with persuading by argument. (May)