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The first section, “Curves,” introduces us to a couple of passionate young lovers, ...
The first section, “Curves,” introduces us to a couple of passionate young lovers, indoors in the city on a rainy afternoon; to a vociferous cluster of children playing on a Midwestern summer evening; to a godlike scuba diver, “all long gold limbs and a restless halo of long gold hair.” In a pair of long poems, two aging men—one a science-fiction writer of the 1950s, the other a traveler in an airport bar—confront their mortality.
“Angles” guides us to a rarely opened north-looking attic room, made brilliant by a nearby maple in full fall orange; to a sunny Louisiana kitchen, where two bowls—one brimming with semiprecious stones, one filled with seashells—are locked in an eternal silent beauty contest; to a frozen Icelandic lake; and to a narrow unmarked entryway that possibly leads to our “true and unbounded kingdom.”
Curves and Angles wanders from the balmy waters of the South Pacific to the crystalline wastes of the Arctic, unified throughout by an embracing love of the natural world in all its inexhaustible variety—whether lush or spare, peopled or solitary, curved or angled. It’s a journey made unforgettable by these wise and exuberant poems.
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NOT LUNAR EXACTLY
New, and entirely new to the neighborhoodÉ
One August day, it came to their own street:
the Nutleys brought home a television!
Nights now, the neighbors began to meet
more often than before, out walking,
walking past the Nutleys, who, on display
behind their picture window, sat frozen
in their chairs, watching their television, which lay
off to the side, just out of view,
so you couldn't make out what
it was they were watching but only
them watching, the four Nutleys, in a blue
glow that was lunar but
not lunar exactly.
That was the summer we all
watched the Nutleys–no,
we all watched "The Nutleys,"
which was the one great show
of the summer, it ran for weeks,
with its four silent stars
behind glass, until nights went cold
and damp and we turned to our cars
if we ventured out after dark,
and then–three in a row–
the Daleys, the Floods, the Markses
took the plunge, they brought home the glow,
and the Nutleys, suddenly,
belonged to a new community.
FROM HERE TO THERE
There are those great winds on a tear
Over the Great Plains,
Bending the grasses all the way
Down to the roots
And the grasses revealing
A gracefulness in the wind's fury
You would nototherwise
Have suspected there.
And there's the wind off the sea
Roiling the thin crowns of the great
Douglas firs on the cragged
Oregon coast, uprooting
Choruses of outraged cries,
As if the trees were unused
To bending, who can weather
Such storms for a century.
And–somewhere between those places,
Needing a break–we climb out stiff
From our endless drive to stand, dwindled,
On a ridge, holding hands,
In what are foothills only because
The neighboring mountains are
So much taller, and there are the breezes,
Contrarily pulled, awakening our faces.
Memory buries its own,
And of what now forever must be
The longest day of his life
What mostly remained was a blur
Under too-bright lights–so he
Could scarcely tell if the things
Sharpest in his mind were
Nothing but fantasies, sewn
Afterwards, out of grief,
And guilt's imaginings.
Yet it seemed memory called up
(After the interminable birth,
As his finger stroked the arm
Of a child who would not last
Even one whole day
And all of its time on earth
Ministered to by vast
Machines that couldn't mend the harm
In a single transcription slip
In reams of DNA)
A look so haunted, so
Haunting, he would not confess
(Not even later, to his wife)
How it stayed with him, on him: the slow
Flicker in a watery eye,
The mute call–through all
The exhausted hopefulness
The condemned come to know
In the end–from animal to animal,
Imploring, Please save my life.
In a seldom-entered attic
you force a balky door,
disclosing a room made brilliant
by an orange tree whose branches bear
no fruit but maple leaves;
We're in New England, after all.
Though rippling foliage fills
the pane, the flush that tints the wall
will last a week or two, no more.
And this conception, if consoling,
of a high, untenanted room
lit solely by a tree
houses as well–at least for those
who'd sidestep round the fear
that in the give-and-take of calls
to answer, calls to make,
we lose the light most dim, most clear–
a reprimand no breeze can shake.
When miles of perfect whiteness
Gave way to a whiteness below
(Snowed-under hills of a cloudlike brightness
Under cloudbanks heaped like snow),
By either light
How fulfilling to contemplate
Domains so evenly claimworthy–
Excerpted from Curves and Angles
by Brad Leithauser
Copyright © 2006 by Brad Leithauser.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted March 14, 2007
This may be Brad Leithauser's best book. Devoted to exquisite detail, liquidity and architecture, these poems unveil a poetic talent that has matured in similar ways to the development of the great painter, Edward Hopper. In the end, Hopper became an artist of sharp angles and unforgiving light. As a mature artist, Hopper painted pictures the way Clint Eastwood now makes movies. It seems to me that Leithauser is doing the same thing, but in poetry. It is an exciting project to watch. This poet's well traveled attention to the glorious world we share entertains and enlightens us. I adore his scuba diver, his cloistered city lovers, his aging cohorts wondering what is was all about and why it must end. As always, Leithauser is good company, a reliable fellow traveler capable of surprising you just when you need it most. --Robert McDowell, The Poetry Mentor, is the author of a book on poetry in spiritual practice due out later this year.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.