Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Review: Pity the Beautiful

luscious, silky words
glide sweetly over my tongue
leave me poem-tipsy

For my birthday, my dear friend Sharon gave me two slim volumes containing some of the loveliest poetry recently published; Sounding the Seasons by Malcolm Guite, and Pity the Beautiful by Dana Gioia. I had every intention of savoring them, enjoying them just a few poems at a time, and with Guite's sonnets, that's exactly what I've been doing. His imagery is good, and very wise; worthy of much slow contemplation. But with Gioia... well, I got a little carried away.

I sat down in my rocking chair with baby in one arm, book in the other, intending to read a poem while I nursed. But one poem turned into two, and two poems turned into three, and I ended up sitting in that rocking chair long after the baby had passed out in my arms, long after I ought to have gotten up to fold some laundry. As a matter of fact, I didn't get up until I'd finished the entire book, and I was a little bit dizzy the rest of the afternoon.

These poems are very nearly perfect. Deeply rooted both in tradition and in his own place and time, the formal poems are effortlessly fluid and the free verse is measured and balanced. In poem after poem, the flow of words evokes exactly the right feeling for the subject matter. The verbal craftsmanship alone makes this collection a joy to read.

The content matches the form in loveliness. With a tender immediacy, he explores our shared experience of mortality, and in so doing reveals the sacredness embedded in the mundane rythms of modern experience. Here, too, we are human; this life also is the stuff of myth. It just takes a bard to make us see it.

Like a good friend, these poems offer deep companionship and a fresh perspective. And like a good bottle of champagne, they go down easily, but do be careful. They will probably make your head swim afterward.

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