Mirrors of Astonishment: Poems

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9780813519005: Mirrors of Astonishment: Poems

The poems in Hadas's ( Pass It On ) latest volume explore the unfeasibility of elegy and the inability of words to bring back what is lost. These are themes, however, that Hadas probed more articulately in her preface to Unending Dialogue , an anthology of writing by AIDS patients. In her efforts to imbue commonplace objects with supernatural powers, Hadas loses that strict attention to observation so important in contemporary poetry; the resulting imagery is unspecific and cliched. Describing a summer house, for example, she writes: "The magic has leaked out of the foundation." While at her best Hadas is a master of her craft, she's also capable of awkward prepositional phrases, superfluous adjectives, redundant exclamation points and forced, pretentious rhyme: "Absolute nudity / is a deluded hope. / The very air I'm singing / is woven trope on trope." Through two-thirds of the book, she uses a sequential poetic form to record static, often unrelated moments. The speaker in one of the shorter poems says of her family: "None of us was afraid to put a name / to anything; but neither did we lift / our faces from the pages of our books." This is not the only poem in which literary references replace emotion.

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Rachel Hadas
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