James Lasdun's third book of poems explores the themes and tensions of his last two with a new boldness and exuberance, in a series of poems about life in the Catskill mountains outside Woodstock, where the author moved with his family some years ago. Questions of exile and belonging, cutting ties and forming new bonds, figure prominently, as does ...
James Lasdun's third book of poems explores the themes and tensions of his last two with a new boldness and exuberance, in a series of poems about life in the Catskill mountains outside Woodstock, where the author moved with his family some years ago. Questions of exile and belonging, cutting ties and forming new bonds, figure prominently, as does the struggle to find a viable relationship with the natural world of the mountain wilderness - at once a stunning companion and a ferocious competitor. Out of this - 'the need to carve out a niche for ourselves;/our singular relation to what we love' - rises the book's central image: the chainsaw. Very much a real machine (given to the alarmed poet by his wife), it also comes to form a complex symbol in which all manner of human traits are reflected with an intense, often comical, brilliance. A brilliantly assured, deftly lyrical sequence, Landscape with Chainsaw melds passion with wit, the classical with the quotidian, in a thrilling meditation on history, love, cultural identity and the anxiety of displacement. As an examination of the complexities of deracination and domesticity, it marks the matured genius of one of England's most important poets.
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Publishers Weekly, 2001-06-04 Raised and educated in England, Lasdun now makes his home in New York's Catskill Mountains, whence his poems, short stories and novels now issue. These witty, personal poems and sequences consider the poet's move from Britain to America and meditate on his family's new surroundings. Lasdun shows, however, an Englishman's distrustful amusement at American self-confidence, and at masculine violence "Returning the Gift" is the best, and the longest, of several poems about the titular chainsaw and the talkative local who sells them. Other poems remember prep-school hippies and English pubs; contemplate Lasdun's Anglo-Jewish heritage; or evoke the neat brambles of nearby forests. His best poems combine those virtues with his considerable gift for short, crackling narrative the quick plot of "Property: The Bear" withstands comparison to its Frostian models. But readers will find the inoculating irony of some of Lasdun's Frederick Seidel-like quips insufficient: "The locals,/ Esopus Algonquins,/ having already been massacred,/ there's no-one with greater claims to an acre// than you have." Lasdun (Woman Police Officer in Elevator) delights in turning a deft stanza, or in bringing highbrow allusions (Heidegger, say) down to homely earth; he can also reveal a self-deprecating wit reminiscent of Merrill. With their Audenesque epigrams, fluent stanzas and English background, the works gathered here will certainly make Anglophile readers perk up their ears, but beyond the dressings, these are really just more autobiographical poems from a literate, white, middle-aged, male speaker. (July) Forecast: Lasdun's reputation in Britain rests on two previous books of poems, on his prose fiction, and on the well-known anthology After Ovid, which he coedited with Michael Hofmann. Any sales here will have to be driven by the fiction, which has yet to find a significant audience here. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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