Linda Pastan, The Five Stages of Grief. Borrowing from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s popular On Death & Dying–& how could it not be popular with an upbeat title like that–Pastan arranges poems extraneously related to the five stages of grief--Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance--which serve as section headings. The title poem, at just over 60 lines, is one of the longest & best pieces in this easy-to-read collection. A minimalist--i.e., one who exerts minimal effort, zing!--Pastan relies primarily on imagery to convey complex ideas–sometimes in a poem of a single sentence or a few fragments–with varied success. Some, like “A Short History of Judaic Thought in the Twentieth Century” & “The Mirror,” work well enough, but others, such as “25th High School Reunion” & “Caroline,” seem incomplete–more like starting points than finished poems. To be fair, I’m glad she didn’t expound upon “25th High School Reunion.” I’m not interested my reunions, much less hearing the details of someone else’s. Of course, if I were so inclined, I could watch Archie: Return to Riverdale, Beautiful Girls, Class Reunion, Class Reunion Massacre, Grosse Point Blank, Just Friends, National Lampoon’s Class Reunion, Peggy Sue Got Married, Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion, Something Wild, Terror Stalks the Class Reunion, Zack & Miri Make a Porno or any of the fine selections available at Netflix. Not a member? Sign up for your free trial today!
Carol Quinn, Acetylene. As winner of the 2008 Cider Press Review Book Award, Quinn has a good ear--her left, I think--for poetry. I like “Sequoia” in particular. However, I have a problem with this collection. Out of thirty poems, thirteen begin with an inscription. In baseball, that sort of average would threaten Ted Williams–I mean, of course, before his corpse was frozen & his decapitated head used for fungo, but still not in a good way. Additionally, following quotations from Anne Dillard & Federico Garcia Lorca which open the book, the Proem (a short poem, "Afterimage," allotted a section unto itself) precedes the “actual” poems. To put a cherry on it, Quinn includes a page of notes to elucidate further upon her work. At times, such notes & inscriptions may be vital, but too often–& Quinn’s not alone in this respect–they seem pretentious, as if the poet were Charlie Tuna, propping up poems with scholarly ornamentations. For instance, Quinn describes “Chaconne” in her end notes as “a response to J.S. Bach’s Chaconne from Partia No. 2 for Solo Violin in D minor.” Speaking of, my “response” is to ask if I don’t get the reference to Bach from the title, can I appreciate the poem without listening to, let’s say, Itzhak “Trust your ability!” Perlman? If not, perhaps Acetylene should be published online so Quinn can provide links, which would be, if I may defer to Urban Dictionary, “god pimp perfect.”
To be continued . . .