cover image The Devil's Tour

The Devil's Tour

Mary Karr. New Directions Publishing Corporation, $9.95 (51pp) ISBN 978-0-8112-1231-1

Karr's ( Abacus ) collection encompasses traditional subjects and forms: elegies for friends, homages to mentors, love poems, fantasies inspired by the arts (Don Giovanni or an early Renaissance etching), confessions, poems about children and friends and the passing of parents. The technique is controlled, not ostentatious, and one senses here a conscious link to the work of older poets such as Larkin and Levertov. Karr's strength lies in her delicate and meticulous control of detail. Characteristically, she describes a cat's nighttime prowl with humor and precision: `` . . . he pounced and rabbit-kicked my head. / I had to disentangle from my hair / all four sets of claws, then tossed him / out into the pyramid of boxes / we'd erected in the yard.'' Such loving attention to seemingly insignificant events is reminiscent of the early work of Adrienne Rich and the use of imagery is similarly evocative (``When the moon / clicked over the sun like a black lens / over a white eye. . . ''). Karr's work generally falls into clipped stanzas, the lines flowing over for an effect of ironic tension appropriate for much of the ``devilish'' material with which she is concerned. While the poet's unflinching consciousness stands out in this text, the poetic voice is not completely developed. (Apr.)