cover image Imaginary Paintings and Other Poems

Imaginary Paintings and Other Poems

Charles Baxter. Paris Review, $7.95 (101pp) ISBN 978-0-945167-24-2

The poems in this debut collection evoke the artistry of Edward Hopper as fiction writer Baxter ( Through the Safety Net) plays with images of light, hopelessness and the loss of American innocence and creativity. The poet fashions a vista of shopping malls, factories and highways in order to rail--often heavy-handedly--against complacency and naivete: ``Say that it's hollow and they'll just laugh / . . . which is why if you tilt American heads backwards / American eyes, like dolls' eyes, snap shut suddenly.'' The way out of this ``sleep,'' Baxter convincingly argues, is via the imagination--the ``current'' that will ``pass through deadened arms, / until all the stories will be original again.'' In poems that celebrate art, music and literature, ``life is proved / to be, not a still life, but otherwise.'' Despite some awkward imagery (``his favorite word flung in your face / like a blood clot''), and a sometimes blatant didacticism meant to implicate the reader, this volume is redeemed by its inventiveness and originality of form, content and spirit. (Apr.)