cover image Ode to Anna Moffo and Other Poems

Ode to Anna Moffo and Other Poems

Wayne Koestenbaum. Persea Books, $17.95 (79pp) ISBN 978-0-89255-154-5

In the title poem and centerpiece of this debut collection, 1989 ``Discovery''/ Nation poetry award co-winner Koestenbaum writes, ``Mired in low culture, / I was aching to reach the high.''41 But it is precisely the low that allows him to exult in the lavish heights of the Metropolitan Opera, idolizing a diva who rises above the mundane only in her performances. Koestenbaum's own performances are formal and fluidly elegant: ``I think that Anna / Moffo sings, / to this day, in a second, / parallel Met, a hologram of the original / projected in air, / where failing voices continue / to thrive amidst a system of strange geysers / and girders, cables / linking the golden prompter's box / to a sky that burns directly on the stage.''45 His wit can become self-conscious, his metaphors heavy, but the unifying strength of the poems is Koestenbaum's burgeoning awareness of being gay, with all its emotional ramifications: ``Thinking I was invisible, I wore the peacock / Blue and found I was too visible. I wanted to shock / My public into cheers, until I learned that they were primitives . . . / When Carla put her hand on Ricky's knee / I saw my future's blueprint. I was wearing pants of lapis lazuli.''11 (Dec.)