cover image The Empty Bed

The Empty Bed

Rachel Hadas. Wesleyan University Press, $13.95 (93pp) ISBN 978-0-8195-1225-3

Influenced by the Greek poets she has translated, Hadas has become one of our most elegiac poets. Her first book (Starting from Troy, 1974) revolves around her father's death; Mirrors of Astonishment (1992) overflowed with elegies for participants in her AIDS workshop. This new volume combines elegies for recently deceased students with poems on her mother's passing: ``cradle you in my arms, my friend, my mother,/ and read you stories of children/ walking unattended through dark woods.'' The frequent use of vague imagery makes it difficult to picture those whom she eulogizes, but this lack of specificity also permits the poems to be applied to the wider culture. While her insistence on form can be obtrusive, Hadas gives away her secrets in lines written after a student's late night call: ``the burning question/ proved to be technique,/ haiku or sonnet,/ whatever formal framework could encompass/ the crucial axioms you were working out....'' (May)