Beautiful Shirt

Beautiful Shirt

by Donald Revell
     
 

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The world that Donald Revell ponders in these poems replete with contrarieties. The same verbal playfulness and prophetic lyricism that made Revell a 1992 Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry and a winner of National Poetry Series, Pushcart, and PEN Center USA West awards are in full force in Beautiful Shirt. Here he traverses the rocky terrain of innocence, memory,

Overview

The world that Donald Revell ponders in these poems replete with contrarieties. The same verbal playfulness and prophetic lyricism that made Revell a 1992 Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry and a winner of National Poetry Series, Pushcart, and PEN Center USA West awards are in full force in Beautiful Shirt. Here he traverses the rocky terrain of innocence, memory, disillusion, and salvation in a voice at once haunted and elliptical: “This is the world as I have known it./ It has a soft outline and is easily victimized.”

Juxtaposed within a trio of long, introspective poems are shorter lyrics that push the limits of poetic syntaxes and dictions. In all, Beautiful Shirt searches for the true nature of the self through language unfettered by narrative constraints and conventional conceptual identities.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In Revell's (Erasures) fifth collection, a reader follows the fragmented terrain of poems like ``a vein of broken petals'' on an otherworldly journey. From ``Privacy'' to ``Cloistered,'' the poems speak an almost hermetic language of concepts, wild images and metaphors aligned as pieces of a smashed mirror. Revell wrote the book while traveling, ``in order to make poems entirely dependent upon immediate physical and verbal circumstances''-which, in practice, resulted in poems virtually devoid of emotion or sensual impact, a poetry of ideas. At times, their strangeness resolves into an exquisite invitation. In other cases, no resolution occurs, and language remains dense nearly to the point of illegibility, yet maintains an energetic, Joycean beauty. Clearly Ashbery has led Revell into a land of abruptly shifting diction, where music ``refuses melody,/ postpones the finale in each note until/ the whole thing collapses under/ the burden of its possibilities.'' And Revell proves himself an able student of Ashberyan fluency, though his attempts at humor seem morbid and less witty. This is a poetry of often blunt, gnomic statements, but also an abundance of thought and dazzling wordplay: labor over it, and you'll be rewarded. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Revell has found an open form for his writing. Like Ashbery's (but in a far less conversational style), the poems in his fifth book seem to unfold of their own volition, offering a scrolling of banal, prosy sections with flashes of lyric spectacle ("I unshare/beneath a leaf in the yellow transactons in her") as well as the aphoristic ("in the harmless espionage of today/emptiness is zeal"). As in the earlier books, the locale is the intersection of the personal and political, but the politics here are of everyday life. In the three sustained, longer sequences, "Privacy," "Plentitude," and "In Company," there is a struggle toward acceptance from within a radical conscience: "where am I to stand/without betraying it all, without/destroying the illusion that makes it lovely?" "There comes a day," comes one disjunctive (and characteristic) answer, "when you cannot revise/your life. It is a beautiful day." Recommended for most poetry collections.-Steven R. Ellis, Brooklyn P.L.
Elizabeth Gunderson
Revell's fifth collection begins with an insightful, honest poem on privacy that contains the line, "Hell is a public life among small people." Through all his work runs an undercurrent of the edgy bitterness in that line. Sometimes it is used to amazing effect, as when Revell ruminates on suburban life as being akin to a captive's search for a "lonely, accidental escape." Only very occasionally--usually in shorter poems in which he can't quite make his point fully--does his dark perspective fail to inspire contemplation. Revell's analogies startle with their unusual juxtapositioning of common words that take on new power from the coupling: toys and condoms; love and interrogation; piety and change; the verbs "rose" and "hanged". His poetry suffers most when he inserts a first-person narrator who becomes a limited-action cardboard cutout trying desperately to live up to the lush landscapes surrounding sitting room or rushing river. When the narrator doesn't appear, and the poem is allowed to stand on its own, Revell's language becomes richer and definitely more delectable.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780819572141
Publisher:
Wesleyan University Press
Publication date:
03/01/2011
Series:
Wesleyan Poetry Series
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
67
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

DONALD REVELL was a National Poetry Series Winner in 1982 for his first book of poems, From Abandoned Cities (1983). In 1985 he won a Pushcart Prize. His collection New Dark Ages (Wesleyan 1990) won the PEN Center USA West Award for Poetry. His other honors include a Shestack Prize from American Poetry Review and fellowships from Ingram Merrill Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has also published the Gaza of Winters (1988) and Erasures (Wesleyan 1992).His work has been selected for three editions of Best American Poetry. Until recently he was editor of the Denver Quarterly. He is currently Professor of English at the University of Utah.

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