To Be Read in 500 Years
Albert Goldbarth, . . Graywolf, $16 (176pp) ISBN 978-1-55597-525-8
Goldbarth’s ample output, frequently comic effects, reader-friendly free verse and almost dauntingly omnivorous reference—from Roman history to cardiology to 1950s science fiction—have slowed down what might otherwise be the widespread acknowledgment of an American master: that has started to change (he won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2002) and might change further with this 25th book of verse. Here is “my shtick/ and my stump-speech exhortation to you, delivered in spittle/ and neural knot-ways,” part of a seven-page poem that advises, again and again, “Keep a dream journal.” Elsewhere is a five-part poem that seeks, through facts from William Carlos Williams’s biography, modern cosmology and 19th-century typesetting, the mysteries of “whatever/ you call it, animus, or consciousness—the 'soul.’ ” The sciences, “The Writing Life” and “Everything” make repeated appearances in Goldbarth’s fast-paced lines. Yet for all his oddball flights, all his “waggly buggish-visaged aliens” and the like, Goldbarth returns, most of the time, to first and last things—to why some marriages (his own, for example) last: to how we deal with parents and friends who fall ill; to how we get all we can, and more than we know, out of life and out of death.
Reviewed on: 05/18/2009