cover image At the End of This Summer: Poems, 1948-1953

At the End of This Summer: Poems, 1948-1953

John Haines. Copper Canyon Press, $14 (80pp) ISBN 978-1-55659-079-5

This collection of verse, written during what Haines calls an ""early period of apprenticeship"" when he was living in New York City, reveals a roving, youthful romantic heart. Most of the poems are imagistic scenes that feature subtle changes in light, encroaching darkness, shifts in mood, city streets and roads leading ""out of the summer's memory and ours."" Often the rhetoric of the poems verges on cliche. ""Nocturnal,"" for instance, offers a rather shallow heart-cry to live near the ocean rather than in the city, but details--like the ""peep of the pewits""--prevent the work from becoming too cloying. Several of the poems--such as the collection's invocation, ""Departure""--are shockingly good. Others are notably bad: ""I Will Tell You How It Was in My Country"" moves from several enigmatic, ancient images before arriving at a concluding moral too weak to bear the historical weight it wants to carry. Late in the collection, however, Haines can be seen tempering his romantic urge with fresh expression and reasoned observation. The last poem, ""Lineage,"" begins, ""The sun of many autumns flames in my blood,"" and concludes, ""Despite the/ swollen lives of men, I see the grass before/ me and believe the dead could stand in/ recognition here, braving another season."" Though filled with a few too many stumblings, the collection will be valuable to readers interested in the early steps of a man who would later become a sure-footed American poet. (Sept.)