cover image Rhapsodies of a Repeat Offender: Poems

Rhapsodies of a Repeat Offender: Poems

Wayne Koestenbaum. Persea Books, $22.95 (120pp) ISBN 978-0-89255-200-9

Koestenbaum's ( Ode to Anna Moffo ) second volume of poetry reads like a catalogue of immediacy, of mystical and erotic ecstasy so emotionally charged that one cannot quite call it confessional--the energy gathered into these poems creates a voice of its own. The book is comprised of a series of poems caught between two long vertiginous works, both aptly entitled ``Rhapsody.'' The first recollects, with lyrical precision, his childhood, his first lies (``My mother is pregnant'') and his first apprehension of ``atoms exploding in fission'' incarnated in a terminally ill young boy named ``Baldie'' who, with ``molten collision,'' refuses to be tormented by a school bully. When Koestenbaum recalls his piano lessons, he seemingly slips in his own ars poetica : ``I can't / depend on pressure for crescendo, but / must dement the rhythm so it / stumbles, hesitates expressively, the line / opening its heart in quick crotchets.'' (The utterances that make up the last poem do exactly this.) He seeks to ``ambush'' his self-conscious side, which has kept him from ``the inspiration to speak without error or apology!'' So, speak he does--improvising, questioning and probing with a directness that doesn't so much draw you in as recklessly push you along. If less ambitious readers find they need a break from these brilliantly exhausting works, they can turn to the poetry that falls between the pillars of his two ``Rhapsody'' poems, and find Koestenbaum focusing on his homosexual awakening and his relationship to classical music. This magnetic collection, once started, is difficult to put down. And once finished, readers may find themselves turning to page one and starting all over again. (Apr.)