In his newest volume of verse, David R. Slavitt offers some of his finest poetry to date. Equinox is a collection of twenty-five poems on various subjects. They are occasional, the that most of them are the result of specific moments of experience—whether of an art work, as in “Canaletto’s Ruin,” or a moment of natural beauty, as in “The Field of Light”:
The road, past Worcester and sundown,
unwound in hollows’ evergreen
shadows, velvet billows: the firm
earth melted under the wheels.
But then, at a turn onto high ground,
I entered into a filed of light.
Light was its crop, a yield of gold
that oozed up like the sweat of plums.
Throughout the collection, Slavitt explores the tensions between lawful order and murderous chaos, the desire to preserve things against inevitable decline, even the conflict between honest desire and the parody of it, as manifested in “Refinement”: “Ours are plenty’s penalties—gout, girth, / atherosclerosis, kidney stones, / and ennui...” And he offers meditations on the relations between generations, as in “Circus Costumes,” in which he recalls his grandfather, and “Letter to a Grandchild.”
In the title poem, Slavitt presents a moving and controlled portrayal of the difficulties of coming to terms with death, especially the violent death, of a loved one:
A balance shifts, and we can feel the night
heavy in the scale, darkness and cold
will weigh with us from now on . . .
Wise and profound, frequently warm and occasionally bitter, these are the poems of a master craftsman.
David R. Slavitt has published more than one hundred books, including The Seven Deadly Sins and Other Poems, Change of Address, and William Henry Harrison and Other Poems. Born in White Plains, New York, and educated at Andover, Yale, and Columbia, Slavitt has worked at Newsweek and has taught at Temple University, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Bennington College.
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