cover image Toward the Splendid City

Toward the Splendid City

Marjorie Agosin. Bilingual Press/Editorial Biling-Ue, $16 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-927534-46-8

Agosin, a U.S. native, was raised in Chile and writes in Spanish. At first, these bright lyrics on somber themes (mostly alluding to recent history: ``Auschwitz,'' ``What Was Yugoslavia'') intrigue and captivate with the gentle surprise of their images: ``To encounter/ cities/ I unlearned/ the rhythm of/ maps.'' At length, however, Agosin's lightly poised oxymorons seem overly mannered, lacking the moral stature of the subject matter, and the empty virtuosity of some formulations can rankle: ``a perpendicular and open street,/ a threshold,/ a doorway where I encounter myself/ like a remembrance.'' The reader discovers a tendency merely to wait for the clever turn in the final pungent phrase of a typical poem. Translator Schaaf follows Agosin's delicate idiom with ease and insight. (Oct.)