cover image The Nature of Yearning

The Nature of Yearning

David Huddle. Peregrine Smith Books, $9.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-87905-459-5

This debut collection opens with a mysterious and linguistically lush epigraph from Elizabeth Bowen that sets the tone for the poems which follow. Much of the work depends upon provocative, and often beautiful, imagery: a sleep mask, a man's lip cut by his lover's fingernail, an ornamented egg cup. But too often such figures lose vitality because the larger structure of the poetry is ineffective. Bendall builds a homage to Louise Bogan with short and precise couplets, yet after a promising beginning, the poem dissolves into a hermetic conversation with the poet: ``I couldn't give them / to you anymore / than you could give me / the rest of your sweet / fields and unstrung leaves. / (Is that too baroque?)'' In fact, it is too baroque; the imagery functions only as ornament and the language is not musical enough to compensate for the loss of clarity. A large portion of the text is devoted to imaginary dialogues with women in the arts; by far, the most successful is the ``Conversation with Eva Hesse.'' The poem is constructed like a simple interview (``Where do you live?'' ``What do you say to your lover?'') and the answers show a true insight into the artist's genius for absurd juxtaposition. (Aug.)