cover image Erasures


Donald Revell. Wesleyan University Press, $14.95 (58pp) ISBN 978-0-8195-1206-2

A glance at the titles of the first three poems here gives an indication of the sense of doom that pervades Revell's (New Dark Ages) fourth collection: The Lesson of the Classics...... Jeremiah, and The Massacre of the Innocents. While each represents a historical period, these opening poems are also the weakest. The pieces in the second section, however, show Revell's strengths as a poet as he alternates poetic lines with short prose passages, and manipulates language syntactically to produce surreal effects: Appetite of the gunman / in the church roof / trains upon his wife/ the remorse fugue the broach / of police injury. Revell does not always delight in such wordplay, however. Even in the final section, in which his poems assume contemporary settings and he permits more private memories to enter in, he often succumbs to didactic, moralizing reflections. The constant political message lurking beneath the surface of the poetry is not only strained, but viewed from afar-whether it has to do with the Cold War, the late massacres in China, or more often than not, some unspecific revolution. (Oct.)