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Reviews

"Unlike the major poets of his generation, Hollander is a practitioner of prosody and continues to consider structure an end as well as a means, as shown in his dazzling display of control in this volume. Perfectly tripartite, it consists of a classic show of quatrains on the subject of lost love, a brilliant entremets in the form of a fictional journal that swallows its own tale, and a series of prose poems. Intellect abounds, and everything works like a clock. But while there is nothing to dispute, at the same time, nothing is memorable either. Hollander brings to mind the conundrum of the unidentifiable "Rival Poet" of Shakespeare's sonnets. In that "contest," Shakespeare triumphed by what he called his "rude ignorance": "I think good words whilst others write good words." It may be that like the Rival, Hollander has too much polish, refinement and intelligence to catch our ear and to endure. Even after this virtuoso performance, Hollander exemplifies one of the crucial questions in American poetry today: How will the great tradition extend into modern New World culture?"

"There are three books here, really, the first being a set of poems in quatrains approaching, quite self-consciously, the grief that follows loss. But Hollander's trademark wit and formal flash mix awkwardly with sorrow, as when the poet, pensively preparing chicken, rhymes "the quotidian's quack quack" with "I turn from divination, back...." Of greater interest is the long meditative prose journal following, an excursion into the self, by turns mundane and Kafka-like, that undulates between trivial and philosophical pursuits. But the most intriguing section features a series of rather eerie narrative prose poems, each toying with the concepts of space and place in a way that recalls William Bronk's poems on the nature of physical reality, each "making the matter of the images deeply moot."