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Logan, William


The New Criterion, Volume 23 (2005)


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Reviews of Where Shall I Wander, by John Ashbery; Elegy on Toy Piano, by Dean Young; Overlord, by Jorie Graham; Black Maria, by Kevin Young; Delights & Shadows, Flying at Night: Poems 1965–1985, & The Poetry Home Repair Manual, by Ted Kooser.

John Ashbery was born when Pola Negri was box office, yet hispoems are more in touch with the American demotic—the tonguemost of us speak and few of us write—than any near-octogenarianhas a right to be. He has published more thana thousand pagesin the last fifteen years, almost twice as many as WallaceStevens wrote in half a century, and Stevens was no slouch.Ashbery’s poems are like widgets manufactured to the mostpeculiar specifications and in such great numbers the whole worldwidget market has collapsed. Where Shall I Wander (a title lifted from the nursery rhyme“Goosey, goosey, gander”) begins with a typical piece of Ashberyian folderol:

We were warned about spiders, and the occasional famine.

We drove downtown to see our neighbors. None of them were home.

We nestled in yards the municipality had created,

reminisced about other, different places—

but were they? Hadn’t we known it all before?

Ashbery’s poems revel in such intimations of disaster (they’re atease without a strip), a disaster curiously similar to thenameless wars and borders and betrayals of Auden’s early poems.In the middle of these Egypt-like plagues, punctuated by smalltouches of absurdity and big doses of nonsense, the reader maywake wondering if he hasn’t read this poem before. Almost allAshbery’s poems, those dead-ends of déjà vu, offer the dream ofmeaning endlessly deferred—the deception finally becomes the expectation. “There’s a sucker born every minute,” said a bankerinvolved in the hoax of the Cardiff giant, and in Ashbery there’sa sucker born every line. When the contract between writer and reader is so fragile, thepoet can pretend to fulfill it with no more than the chaff andloose ends of sentences, fragments that never grow up to bewholes. In general, the more of Ashbery there is, the less thereis (the worst poems here are prosy and interminable). Much ofthe book, despite its local fireworks, is the exhaustedrepetition of his old vaudeville routines:

Attention, shoppers. From within the inverted

commas of a strambotto, seditious whispering

watermarks this time of day. Time to get out

and, as they say, about. Becalmed on a sea

of inner stress, sheltered from cold northern breezes,

idly we groove: Must have

been the time before this, when we all moved

in schools, a finny tribe, and this way

and that the caucus raised its din.

And so on and on. Here we have the embrace of American idiom,whether high-stepping or lowbrowed (Ashbery’s range is as broadas Whitman’s), the steep descent of tone, the enjambment almostas flirtatious as Milton’s. Ashbery offers some things few otherpoets do (including the patented double take and stop-on-a-dimevolte-face) while being incapable of offering what most thinkabsolutely necessary. This makes him not just a slapstick artistfor our fallen times—no, it means that when you read Ashbery youhave to forget much of what you know about reading poetry. Youhave to take satisfaction where pleasures are rarely given andnever let yourself wish for what isn’t there. (There’s so muchthat isn’t there.) Ashbery undermines many of the axioms onwhich poetry rests—he’s smiling, not like Carroll’s cat, butlike Schrödinger’s, neither dead nor alive but always alreadyboth. Some of the most engaging passages here comment archly on partiesor clothes. They make you wish that, instead of writing poemslike a man with an attention-deficit disorder, Ashbery werecapable of writing a novel as long as Remembrance of ThingsPast. Though sometimes it’s a perverse pleasure to see largeissues reduced to candy floss, there’s a devious moral world,largely untapped, beneath his nonsense—Ashbery is a man notafraid to write whatever rattles into his head (if he had aninternal censor, one logical as a lawyer, he’d lose all thatdevil-may-care charm). Alas, it’s no use asking this poet to besomething he isn’t—and sometimes no use trying to like thesomething he is. When you read his poems, you sigh with pleasureto see a thing so odd done with such panache, suchsavoir-faire, such élan, such … well, whatever the wordwould be, it would be French, in order to apply to that ultimateboulevardier of American poetry, Mr. Ashbery. Ashbery has inherited the mode of attention that gave usBaudelaire, but also Walter Benjamin’s archives project andRoland Barthes’s Writing Degree Zero. He finds America in itshither-thither diction much as Whitman (who scrawled downexamples of American slang in his notebooks) did in its Americanscenes. An outsider sees things too common for us to notice, ortoo strange for us to admit, and for his whole career Ashbery hasbeen an American outsider, though a much honored one. He is nowrapidly going, even so, from elder statesman to venerable antique(as once he went from Peck’s bad boy to elder statesman)—all youcan do with such Victorian whatnots is dust them off once in awhile and wonder what people ever saw in them.

The quality of whimsy is not strained. It falleth from Ashberylike the gentle rain—and it falleth on a lot of young poets now,students in the School of Goofball Poetics, boys who cut theirteeth on Ashbery and Charles Simic and James Tate and now showlittle interest in any poems written before Dada came to town.Dean Young’s sixth book, Elegy on Toy Piano, is fairlyrepresentative of the younger generation, full to the gills withgeegaws and thingmabobs and dojiggers, but one tradition embracedis a lot of tradition rejected. 

            What happened?

shouts the hero rushing into the study room.

Mung magph naagh, replies the heroine

still in her gag. Insert flap A

into slot A. X-rays inconclusive.

Want to hear me count to 1,000 by 17s?

Beep hexagonal, my puppeteer.

I hate your dog.

Huh? Well, now that you mention it, fella, I don’t want to hearyour times table after all. Not every Young poem is quite thisscatterbrained, but he loves non sequiturs much as a snake lovesmice. (Not that non sequiturs seem to like him very much.)Reading Young is like watching a stand-up comic on a cablechannel, one unsure of his audience, staring at the crowd like agazelle surrounded by a pack of hyenas, and bombing like a B-17.The problem with comedy of this trivial sort is that, rather thanshockor provoke, it manages merely to irritate (the reader isreduced to muttering Uh-oh or Ho-hum). A poet who wants to getlaughs begins to write for the joke, and when he can’t nail thathe just lays down a laugh track. Poets find it hard to be seriousnow, unless they’re writing about their lives (on which they tendto be all too grave, as if working up a pathology report). Atbest, Young’s poems mock themselves as well as poets of moreserious temper. At worst, they’re the poems of someone who tooka mail-order course in surrealism:

One walking a lobster on a leash.

One who knew the functions of 14 different forks.

Something there is that does not love

a constructor of roller coasters.

When Lung Zu looked at the wall, he saw no wall.

When Po Chu walked east, she also walked west.

The symphony opens with heroic proclamation

               disclaimed by a hush of liquid paper.

Forever late like the White Rabbit, such helter-skelter linesseem in a headlong hurry to be elsewhere. In one poem, Youngmentions setting an alarm clock for five a.m., “to write fastwithout thinking,” and a lot of these poems must have beenwritten that way. He grooves along like a scat singer, notreally caring if he’s blithering (not caring is, after all, thepoint). Sometimes his poems have delightfully loopy premises(one consists of a hundred true/false statements; another jugglesthe complicated mathematics involved in liking a married couple),but sooner or later they run out of steam—he’s not a poet whoknows when he’s overstayed his welcome. Young’s poems want so badly to be loved, after a while you’rewilling to buy them a ticket to Lapland, just to be rid of theirshining, eager faces. On the rare occasion that this poet doesthink about something serious, he jokes about it for a couple oflines, then scurries off in embarrassment. Elegy on Toy Pianoshows what happens when a poet inherits a difficult,contradictory tradition (the uses of surrealism are almost asvarious as the uses of lyric) and can make nothing out of it buttrash.

Jorie Graham loves big ideas the way small boys like big trucks.Her books start with some notion just the far side of grandiose(“What does it mean,” the dust jacket trumpets, “to be fullypresent in a human life? How—in the face of the carnage ofwar … —does one retain one’s ability to be both present andresponsive?”) and end up grinding the Himalayas down to gravel.In Overlord, her tenth book, she visits Omaha Beach, attemptingto see beyond the placid sands—children playing along the shore,the rusting landing craft become tide pools—the indiscriminateslaughter of June 6, 1944: 

others meant for Easy Green or Easy Red

                also thrown at Dog—mostly all still

alive—off-schedule—including the

sweepers—all dragged down, freezing, waves huge—meant to land

where gun emplacements were less thick and channels between lines

                                                of tracer-fire

could be read through the surface of

                                                the beach

This odd shorthand—historical flotsam and jetsam swept up alongthe tide line of verse (she employed no fewer than sevenresearchers, though she still can’t tell a bomb squadron from abomb group)—recreates some of the frenzy, the helpless panic, ofthose first moments of D-Day (the code name for the invasion wasOverlord). Yet the bullying italics and the knowinguse of “reading,” as if the sands were simply another text, dragus away from the helpless soldiers (the most telling passages inthese poems are snippets from their letters and interviews) tothe mastering presence, the overlording, of the poet herself. For a long while, Graham’s poetry has suffered this peculiarimmodesty. No matter where her poems start, sooner or latertheir subject becomes the poet’s hyperkinetic awareness of herown senses (reading some of her poems is like tripping on LSD),and this too easily turns into the blank stare and lapel grabbingof the quietly mad—“I’m actually staring up at/ you, you know,right here, right from the pool of this page./ Don’t worry whereelse I am, I am here.” Graham has reduced the poetry of meditation to navel-gazing; theminute attention to her nattering thoughts, to the violence ofher vision (at one point she gets down to photon level), merelyreworks, in stilted fashion, the stream of consciousness DorothyRichardson pursued in the Twenties. If Graham had concentratedon the accident and contingency of war, had honored the men whosedeaths she casually invokes, Overlord might have become thesort of serious meditation that produced Geoffrey Hill’s Mysteryof the Charity of Charles Péguy (1983). Graham is so busy taking everything back to first principles,hurling Plato and Zeno into the breach, she’s in danger offorgetting that poems embrace dullness only at great risk.

           [when your work sells for][millions of dollars][you][can]

indulge yourself. You can paint to prove that painting is dead. You can

paint as a true believer in painting. [Oh I should][I really should][you said

it was there][truly there][I only had to take the photograph]

[and that only one thing exists][no … not death!][this!]

In the wrack and wreckage of her current work, it’s hard toremember the difficult pleasures of Erosion (1983) and The Endof Beauty (1987), high-voltage moments in the poetry of theEighties. Unfortunately, the powers a poet harnesses for a bookor two may eventually prove so unruly that what was once animagination in tension becomes a stampeding coach and six. Graham’s lack of any sense of proportion reduces the argument ofOverlord to something like “On the one hand, my kitty hasAIDS; on the other, a whole lot of guys died on Omaha Beach.”(If you think the poet can stoop no lower, that herhigh-mindedness can’t be more unintentionally hilarious, youhaven’t read the poem in which she buys a homeless man a meal andpractically kills him.) Halfway through the book, the poorsoldiers have been forgotten; and Graham, like a mini-U.N.,begins deliberating upon the idea of nations:

                Time of the flags is long past—how

strange—a Flag! Of what? Are you a

nation, you, you there. Are you in a nation. Is one in you?

Are you at war or at peace or are war and peace

playing their little game over your dead body?

Such hectoring, humorless lines, trite as tar paper, are worsethan the propaganda Marianne Moore wrote during World War II.For years, Graham has scoured the bushes for finches, has priedloose every stray barnacle she has come across; there was longhope that these scattered minutiae (one man’s junk being anotherman’s scientific collection) might one day prove the coralaccretion of a grand poem or two. Alas, the method has longsince become her meaning: she scrapes and shuffles and observesher grains of sand, but in the end all she has to show for it isthe scraping and shuffling. Almost everything Graham writes offers the swagger of emotion,pretentiousness by the barrelful, and a wish for originality thatapproaches vanity—she’s less a poet than a Little Engine thatCould, even when it Can’t. If I close her later booksdisappointed, it’s never a disappointment in their boldness, butrather in her inability to bring these huge engineering projectsto successful conclusion. Will that stop her? Like hell itwill!

There’s this skirt, see, named Delilah Redbone, see, and this dickin Shadowtown named Jones, and the sap falls for her. Thefrail’s maiden name was Trouble, and the dick, his middle name isDanger. If you’ve never gotten your fill of alibis, gunsels,snitches, paybacks, hideouts, and hooch, Kevin Young’s BlackMaria pays homage to the great films noirs of the Forties andthe hard-boiled fiction of Chandler and Hammett. The trappingsof a new genre often refashion an old one (though in new featherseven a good poet may look ridiculous). Almost two decades ago,Nicholas Christopher’s detective novel in verse, DesperateCharacters (1987), showed how difficult the genre can be for thedilettante, but then almost a century and a half ago anotheramateur proved that brilliant things could be done—what is TheRing and the Book but a detective novel? (Some might claimParadise Lost is a police procedural.) Young, whose last book was a misdirected and sentimentalreworking of the blues, is an ambitious young poet with quirkyideas. Black Maria is meant to be a film, its sections, called“reels,” composed of poems that straggle down the pagehalf-starved for punctuation:

I didn’t have a rat’s chance.

Soon as she walked in in That skin of hers

violins began. You could half hear The typewriters jabber

as she jawed on: fee, find, me, poor, please.

Shadows & smiles, she was. Strong scent of before-rain Her pinstripe two-lane

legs, her blackmail menthol.

The occasional phrase reveals what delights await a genretransformed, but the rest is jazzed-up jawing and sidelongremarks that niggle their way toward wisecracks (“pinstripetwo-lane/ legs” must refer, clumsily, to the dark seam in oldnylons). Young loves wordplay more than any contemporary exceptPaul Muldoon; he’ll go to great lengths to fetch a pun, and evengreater ones for a bad joke. The poems here are addicted tointernal rhymes, winsome glances at the reader, and a dictionthat slides from the most perfumed poeticism to black dialect(the language at times suggests that Jones and Redbone are black,though it’s not entirely clear). Such frenzied invention might be just the thing to invigoratecontemporary poetry, which often can’t see past the third-ratetraumas of private life (the vampire in Sylvia Plath turned outto be Plath). Think how Auden’s urban renewal projectstroubledthe Thirties and Forties—“Letter to Lord Byron,” “NewYear Letter,” “For the Time Being,” and “The Sea and the Mirror”razed someof the settled assumptionsof modernism. Young hasseen that noir can capture, as critics have been saying fordecades, the anxieties of the age—and what age is more anxiousthan ours? Young’s vers noir, alas, has none of the suspense of film ornovel. Narrated in a slack-jawed style where all characters talkalike, it meanders along without much by way of plot, theincidents democratically clichéd, the denizens proud to bestereotypes, only the language working overtime. Young isdevoted to his dumb jokes, and by the time you’ve beensledge-hammered by “my entrenched coat,” a “well-minxed martini,”“here comes the bribe,” “two eggs,/ over queasy,” an “ashtrayfull of butts/ & maybes,” “she played/ soft to get,” and “caseclothed” (all right, I admit a fondness for “older ladies …thought his shinola// didn’t stink”), you’re punch drunk andready to cry “Uncle!” You might forgive such punishing punning,such quarrelsome quibbles, as merely high spirits, but the poet’sarchness falls prey to far too much blowsy sentiment (genre isdoing a lot more for Young than Young is doing for genre): a can“whose jagged lid// opens your hand/ as if charity,” “smellingof catharsis/ & cheap ennui.” Bullets are made of lead, and sois the repartee. Black Maria is set in the Thirties or early Forties (there arereferences to a Tommy gun and a decoder ring, one thatmight come in handy for deciphering the poet’s system ofcapitalization), but somehow the modern age of the bikini (a wordfirst recorded in 1947), the Saturday night special (1968), andpaparazzi (1981) keeps sidling in. Then there are the wobblywriting, the misdemeanors of spelling and grammar, the dog’sdinner of punctuation, the dialect that often goes on the lam.As the story inches forward, repeating some scenes as if wehadn’t gotten the idea, the whodunit becomes the who gives adamn? After some 200 pages, though we’re no closer to knowingthese characters (or having any idea what’s going on by way ofplot), there’s a passage of science fiction that seems to havefallen out of another novel on the paperback rack. Young has tried so hard to make this a tour de force, he’sforgotten, not just the ontology that makes film noir sohaunting, but the suspense that makes it entertaining. Thereseems no world beneath the nattering surface of his language,which lacks the philosophy of form on which genre depends. Thisgiddy be-bop poet hasn’t yet found the right back alley for hisgifts.

Ted Kooser is a prairie sentimentalist who writes poems in anAmerican vernacular so corn-fed you could raise hogs on it.Kooser never met a word he didn’t like, unless it was a long one,or one derived from Latin, or Greek, or French—in the new poemsof Delights & Shadows, which recently won the Pulitzer Prize,as well as the older ones in Flying at Night, he stands for afoursquare, hidebound American provincialism that, by gum, hasevery right to write poems and, by golly, means to write them,too. His poems tend to be short, dying for air, afraid to domore than tell you what happened on the porch, or right out thewindow, or maybe, just once, down the block. William Carlos Williams may be responsible for the strain ofAmerican individualism that, in our poetry, took the multitudesof Walt Whitman and squeezed them into a shoe box (think of themop-haired words Whitman loved, not just foreign but American,too). It seems odd that poets should be drawn to plain-talkingyokelism in a country clapped together out of immigrant ways andmigrant tongues, but it doesn’t take long for a country toestablish its own traditions and begin to hate everybody else’s.In Williams, and Creeley, and Kooser, you see the wish to makepoetry out of the American language, meaning any word that can bespoken down at the corner grocery without making the clerk furrowhis brow (when Kooser gets stuck for an adjective, he slaps in“old” and keeps on going, so after a while he’s got old men, oldladies, old dogs, old moles,old coats, old stoves, old snow, oldthunder,old No Hunting signs, and much else).It doesn’t matterthat the grocery is nowa Starbucks and the clerk is called abarista. Kooser wants a poetry anyone can read without shame andunderstand without labor, because he thinks poetry has too longbeen in the hands of poets who “go out of their way to make theirpoems difficult if not downright discouraging.” This would comeas a surprise to Shakespeare and Milton, Pope and Browning, andother poets who thought poetry was for those who loved it enoughto spend time educating themselves—indeed, who felt thatlearning to read poems was itself an education. (Folks likeKooser want to render Shakespeare or the Bible in kitchen-sinkEnglish, without a difficulty or a discouragement in sight.) The current poet laureate, like many of his countrymen, doesn’tlike anything that seems tough going. (It’s fortunate he isn’tin charge of teaching music, which has all those pesky notes.)Kooser prefers a poem whose meaning can be plucked from a drystreambed like a nugget of gold.

A Glimpse of the Eternal Just now,

a sparrow lighted

on a pine bow

right outside

my bedroom window

and a puff

of yellow pollen

flew away.

It’s not much of a fight, and the monosy llablesbeat the disyllables hands down.There’s nothing awful about a poemthat ends in mystic nothingness (at times you feel Kooserpractices a kind of prairie zen), slathered with sentimentlike corn on the cob with butter, but, to outdo it, the next poetoff the farm will have to write in grunts. Maybe you’d like to get into this poetry racket yourself.Kooser’s Poetry Home Repair Manual is full of down-homecharm and genial misinformation (the poet laureate is folksy asan old rain barrel). He dispenses dollops of homespun wisdom tofolks who want to write poems but have never had the gumption totry—they’ve been scared off by, of all people, poets themselves,who apparently spend most of their time advancing their careersand worrying about literary critics and making their poems sotangled up that, well, they’re just nonsense to an ordinary Joe:“most of us learned in school that finding the meaning of a poemis way too much work, like cracking a walnut and digging out themeat.” If Shakespeare knocked on his door for advice, Kooserwould scratch his head and say, “Why, Bill, I guess these looklike poems, but they’re way too much like walnuts for me.” Whomamong all the poets of the past was our poet laureate inspiredby? Whom does he use as an example? Why, Walter de la Mare! For Kooser, poetry’s main selling point is that it doesn’t haveany rules, because rules are apparently very bad things tohave. He doesn’t much like rhyme and meter (he doesn’t like theword “prosody,” either, because it “sounds so stuffy”). Still, I’malways eager to learn how to write poems, so I opened the PoetryHome Repair Manual at random and got some important advice: “Saya poet writes, ‘She had eyes like a chicken.’ Presto! Achicken pops into your mind.” And, presto, a chicken did popinto my mind! Why, it was simple as that! But things soon got abit more complicated, and I began to wonder if this metaphor andsimile business wasn’t harder than it was cracked up to be. Acouple of paragraphs later, the poet complained, “You know whatI’m talking about. We’ve already got a lot of chickens and acouple of washing machines on the table.” And, presto, therewere a lot of chickens and a couple of washing machines on thetable, clucking and sloshing away, so I turned to another page.There I found Kooser—I imagined him whittling away at a stickall the while—comparing the words of a poem to a bunch of hamcubes on a styrofoam tray, covered in shrink-wrap. And, presto!… The odd thing is, on rare occasions Kooser writes as if he knowsmore about poems than he lets on. A widow speaks:

How his feet stunk in the bed sheets!

I could have told him to wash,

but I wanted to hold that stink against him.

The day he dropped dead in the field,

I was watching.

I was hanging up sheets in the yard,

and I finished.

Though the poem is unambitious in the virtuous, Calvinist wayKooser admires, there’s a darkness here that Frost would haverecognized. The prairies were once so lonesome and dreary and treeless thatmen called them the Great American Desert. A hundred and fiftyyears later, they’re growing lonesome once more, and the unspokensubject of Kooser’s poetry is the gradual depopulation of theGreat Plains. There has always been emptiness and madness inthose small towns (Kooser was a life insurance executive—the onething such an executive knows about is death), and also thesilent desperation that leads to Kooser’s whimsies about, say,mice abandoning a newly ploughed field, dragging tiny carts andcarrying miniature lanterns. It’s a pity that these strange,unsettling poems were all written more than twenty years ago.There are a couple of haunting narrative poems in his new volume(Kooser’s real gift may be for narrative), but everything else isstraight as a rail fence and just as wooden, too. Before he letplain speech become its own tyranny, before he started worryingabout “poetry cops” intent on enforcing the “rules,” he showedsigns of becoming a poet who knew something about cruelty and hada retrospective melancholy eye. Then he decided he’d be betteroff chawing plug tobacco and selling straw hats to tourists.

In the past, I have written with such pleasure on RichardWilbur’s elegant and well-mannered verse that perhaps I may beforgiven for not cracking a full bottle of champagne across thebow of his latest Collected Poems. (Wilbur’s poetry was also discussedby Daniel Mark Epstein in “The metaphysics of Wilbur,” The NewCriterion, April 2005.)Wilbur has added a dozennew poems, as well as the contents of Mayflies (2000), to theNew and Collected Poems of eighteen years ago (he has alsoprovided, like sweepings, a few show lyrics and his verse forchildren). About the best that can be said of the new poems isthat they are reminiscent of Wilbur’s late style andimpressive poems for any octogenarian to write. Here are housesseen at night in Key West:

Yet each façade is raked by the strange glare

Of halogen, in which fantastic day

Veranda, turret, balustraded stair

Glow like the settings of some noble play… . A dog-tired watchman in that mirador

Waits for the flare that tells of Troy’s defeat,

And other lofty ghosts are heard, before

You turn into a narrow, darker street. There, where no glow or glare outshines the sky,

The pitch-black houses loom on either hand

Like hulks adrift in fog, as you go by.

It comes to mind that they are built on sand, And that there may be drama here as well,

Where so much murk looks up at star on star:

Though, to be sure, you cannot always tell

Whether those lights are high or merely far.

This is the sort of thing Wilbur does well on a good day, and ona bad one does so half-heartedly it calls the whole enterpriseinto question. The quiet intelligence of these lines—the calmunfolding of their perception—looks so easy anyone should be ableto do it; and almost no one can. I love the reference to thewatch fires that begin Agamemnon, love those houses driftingalong in the fog like mysterious ships, love the reminder thatthe houses are built on sand; but the end, however quietly itinvokes Frost’s “Desert Places,” seems muddled and listless.It’s curious that John Ashbery, who is only a few years younger,still seems our contemporary, while Wilbur sounds like an oldfussbudget sorry he threw out his last pair of spats. A year ago American poetry, very briefly, had two centenarians,Richard Eberhart and Carl Rakosi. Rakosi has since died, butthis year we will add another, Stanley Kunitz. As far as I know,no country has ever been able to boast of so many centenariansamong its poets; and I suspect we will see many more (I’m notsure whether this trend is scary or not—what Keats was able toaccomplish in four or five years is quite beyond what most poetscan do in eighty). I trust that Richard Wilbur will be writingpoems for a long while to come, and that some will be better thanthe new poems here. His Collected Poems, which includes poemsso ornate Fabergé would have wept, deserves to be on thebookshelf of any serious reader.

William Logan’s book of poetry, The Whispering Gallery, will be publishedthis fall by Penguin.


  1. Where Shall I Wander, by John Ashbery;Ecco,81 pages, $22.95.
  2. Elegy on Toy Piano, by Dean Young;University of Pittsburgh Press, 93 pages, $12.95 (paper).
  3. Overlord, by Jorie Graham;Ecco, 95 pages, $22.95.
  4. Black Maria, by Kevin Young;Alfred A. Knopf, 244 pages, $24.95.
  5. Delights & Shadows, by Ted Kooser;Copper Canyon Press, 92 pages, $15 (paper).Flying at Night: Poems 1965–1985, by Ted Kooser;University of Pittsburgh Press, 142 pages, $14.95 (paper).
  6. The Poetry Home Repair Manual, by Ted Kooser;University of Nebraska Press, 163 pages, $19.95.
  7. Collected Poems, 1943–2004, by Richard Wilbur;Harcourt, 585 pages, $35.