Albert Goldbarth "just may be the American poet of his generation for the ages", says Judith Kitchen in a recent feature on him in the Georgia Review. "Often humorous but always serious, Goldbarth combines erudite research, pop-culture fanaticism, and personal anecdote in ways that make his writings among the most stylistically recognizable in the ...
Albert Goldbarth "just may be the American poet of his generation for the ages", says Judith Kitchen in a recent feature on him in the Georgia Review. "Often humorous but always serious, Goldbarth combines erudite research, pop-culture fanaticism, and personal anecdote in ways that make his writings among the most stylistically recognizable in the literary world". This new volume, Saving Lives, both consolidates and extends his passions and their presentations. The poems range from a few tight, resonant lines to works of long storytelling drive, from sequences that encompass the most flexible of free verse to an homage to the sestina. Some center on familiar cultural icons (Rembrandt, Houdini, Barnum, the Hardy Boys), others on little-known fringe players in subculture's oddest unlit corners, and yet others on family histories. But always they examine an essential subject: the ways in which we try to "save lives" -- whether through a transplanted lung, the archeological remnant, the conserved book. As ever, Goldbarth dazzles, displaying an energetic mind eager to share his arcane learning, oddball musings, and observations of intimate moments, joys, and despairs. A zany wit and a generous sense of humanity reign equally. Saving Lives only enhances this writer's grand signature tradition.
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Publishers Weekly, 2001-05-14 Hard on the heels of the poetry of Beyond (1998) and Troubled Lovers in History (1999), and almost simultaneous with Many Circles: New and Selected Essays which follows 1999's Dark Waves and Light Matter: Essays comes this umpteenth volume of Goldbarth poems. Like all his work, it's talky, exuberant and packed with trivia and discoveries in fields from archaeology to old radio shows to Judaica. Goldbarth moves easily from big, serious, personal topics his friends' divorces and near-divorces, his mother's cancer to quirky phrases and delightful facts: P.T. Barnum, "a sterling example/ of willed bizarritude," illuminates "our own belabored piffles of imagination," the "Power of Weirdness" to be found in "woven radish baskets, bobbered fishing skeins, and god dolls." Here is a poem about insect bodies, "spoken by a plaque at Scenic View"; there is a sequence (among his best) based on "The Hardy Boys' Detective Handbook." Here is "schoolboy humor" about bras and panties, illuminating (among other conjoined stories) the life of Goldbarth's refugee "Great-Auntie Yetta"; there is a long poem (a flop) about a great library, and another (a winner) about everything that takes place on his 50th birthday. Like all his books, this one repeats motifs detection and detective stories, radio, Rembrandt, aged relatives; these motifs let many poems focus on questions about dual, or hidden, identities or lives. Goldbarth's poems do not offer the concentration, the once-and-for-all rightness, of most lyric: mostly they are lineated essays, meant, tender, personal and fun. (May) Forecast: With the Goldbarth market glutted, and with this book's few departures and modest imprimatur, its primary audience will probably be the shelves of university libraries unless buyers there wait for the inevitable selected or collected. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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