Arcady / Edition 1

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Overview

Donald Revell’s new work, Arcady, draws its inspiration from Charles Ives and Henry David Thoreau to create a distinctly American poetic music. Triggered by a series of deaths in the poet’s intimate circle, anchored in the deserts of the Spring Mountains of Nevada, this book is nonetheless replete with lush, still moments. Many of the poems begin as meditations on loss and then transform themselves, thanks to the poet’s awareness of the spaciousness and openness of the void following grief. The attention to rhythm and the exploration of seen and unseen worlds lead the poet to find solace in the earthly rhythms of seasons’ passage and seasonal rituals. Revell’s sparse, experimental lines are soundings within which the music of language harnesses us to the present and its infinite resonance. Like Ives’s notion of music heard through and against other music, Revell’s words and images well up against each other and a profound language of images, meter and rhythm emerges.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this first collection since his Pulitzer Prize-winning Neon Vernacular: New & Selected Poems, Komunyakaa brings his lush, propulsive, myth-making language to a wide range of subjects: Charlie Parker and Ishi; the California Indian; the wildlife of Australia and South Africa. All are the title's 'thieves,' casing the joint and then snatching the bliss brought to us by the senses: 'the lips,/salt & honeycomb on the tongue.../ how everything begs/ blood into song & prayer/ inside an egg.' Such pleasures are found and taken despite the lingering pain of Vietnam, where 'the earth swings on a bellrope, limp as a body bag tied to a limb, and the moon overflows with blood,' and the dark history of Western culture. 'The Tally,' a brilliant reckoning of 18th-century trade, reveals the taint even intellectual history bears: 'They're counting nails,/ barrels of salt pork,/ sacks of tea and sugar.../ They're uncrating hymnals,/ lace, volumes of Hobbes,/ Rousseau & kegs of rum./ ...They're counting women/ & men.' But Komunyakaa, a Princeton professor, also finds resonance in that culture, invoking Pascal, Goya and 'The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam' as sources of meaning and joy, along with 'Cracker Jacks' and 'Art Tatum's keys.' Here, as in the work of kindred spirits the Beats, a deliberately raw poetry is fruitfully thrown in with the cooked. The resulting vision of paradise -- 'the same feeling that drives/ sap through mango leaves,/ up into the fruit's sweet/ flesh & stony pit' is a compelling one.
Publishers Weekly
This latest and strongest volume from the increasingly influential Revell (There Are Three) began, as his preface explains, with the death of his sister. Its cryptic, stark, incantatory short-lined sonnets and sonnet-sized stanzaic lyrics take in pre-Socratic philosophers, hymns, nursery rhymes, TV cartoons ("tooms") and the literary ancestry of pastoral genres while remaining close to Revell's own loss. Revell juxtaposes the grief he continues to feel with Virgilian shepherds and journeys, with other deaths (those of Allen Ginsberg, the puppeteer Shari Lewis), even with orchestration: "The sympathy of friends is pleasant VIOLINS But it makes no difference anymore TROMBONES." His clipped stanzas can sound like stage directions, or like notes for still-unwritten poems. At the same time they can grab the ear and hold on "It dies away Very quickly My father's Harp struck." "Shall We be there For keeps for Us," he asks in "The Little River Wants to Kee," whose quizzical title implies both "keen" and "keep." Acknowledged influences include Thoreau and Poussin (whose best-known painting includes the motto "Et in Arcadia Ego"); readers may also recall the terse, mystical lines of Michael Palmer or the typographical experiments of Apollinaire, the French modernist whom Revell (who teaches at the University of Utah) has translated. Revell's previous work has struck some readers as inspiringly strange, while seeming to others arid or unmusical. In his new poems, though, each verbal venture emerges from, and returns to, events in the soul: "After gods go Over the moon I'll catch you." (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
The New Yorker
The central subjects of Komunyakaa's poetry -- his experiences in the Vietnam War and as an African-American male -- have always been made compelling in his hands, and equally compelling has been the moodily energetic, jazz-inspired improvisatory technique that he employs with increasing mastery. But what is most graftifying about Komunyakaa's surrealist riffs, with their almost hallucinatory lushness, is their power to convince us that the individual imagination is more than equal to the most excruciating historical burden.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819564740
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 2/15/2002
  • Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 64
  • Product dimensions: 5.52 (w) x 8.48 (h) x 0.28 (d)

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