For a Modest God: New and Selected Poems

For a Modest God: New and Selected Poems

by Eric Ormsby
     
 

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It's not that Ormsby lacks a unique, poetic voice; it's that he chooses not to stick with any one of his many literary personalities. In this collection of new and recent material, there seems to be an entire colony of poets being channeled through a single hand. At his most arch, Ormsby draws from a gratuitously large vocabulary to talk to the animals: "My quarrel with your quorum, Monsignor/ Flamingo, is that you scant the rubicund/ in favor of a fatal petal tint." Then, by way of overcompensation, he will turn to plain vanilla: "This is our history./ The place is empty now where we began." There are cameo appearances of Ormsby the workmanlike formalist and Ormsby the Arabic scholar. When he switches into confessional mode, however, he finds transcendence in childhood memories. But he is at his best in a scattering of poems that exhibit his startling ability to render detail richly and in the language of decay. A short series finds Lazarus coping with his plight, dressed in "delicate ruffles of fungus." And there's a haunting shrine of Christ where "Pustules of malachite surround each eye." Ultimately, it is Ormsby's eye for rotas when he peers into skunk cabbage and discovers "the foul magenta of its gorgeous heart"that gives this volume its life and allure. (Apr.)
Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
It's not that Ormsby lacks a unique, poetic voice; it's that he chooses not to stick with any one of his many literary personalities. In this collection of new and recent material, there seems to be an entire colony of poets being channeled through a single hand. At his most arch, Ormsby draws from a gratuitously large vocabulary to talk to the animals: "My quarrel with your quorum, Monsignor/ Flamingo, is that you scant the rubicund/ in favor of a fatal petal tint." Then, by way of overcompensation, he will turn to plain vanilla: "This is our history./ The place is empty now where we began." There are cameo appearances of Ormsby the workmanlike formalist and Ormsby the Arabic scholar. When he switches into confessional mode, however, he finds transcendence in childhood memories. But he is at his best in a scattering of poems that exhibit his startling ability to render detail richly and in the language of decay. A short series finds Lazarus coping with his plight, dressed in "delicate ruffles of fungus." And there's a haunting shrine of Christ where "Pustules of malachite surround each eye." Ultimately, it is Ormsby's eye for rot-as when he peers into skunk cabbage and discovers "the foul magenta of its gorgeous heart"-that gives this volume its life and allure.
Library Journal
Ormsby's work has earned the prestigious Ingraham Merrill Prize and Canada's QSpell Award for poetry. The present work adds to the impressive body of poems available in his earlier Coastlines (ECW, 1992) and Bavarian Shrine and Other Poems (ECW, 1990) and identifies him as a master of the poetry of sheer observation. A typical poem in this collection focuses on a specific event or object, scrupulously examining it with analytical precision, then teasing from it intimations of, if not immortality, at least the universal order of things. His method demonstrates the delight and potency of pure description, which, with Ormsby, unfailingly exposes the unexpected extraordinary in the ordinary subjects it addresses: a railroad yard in winter, a conch shell, lichens, skunk cabbage, a turtle's skull, and even the nose. This volume deserves a prominent place in all poetry collections. Highly recommended.Thomas F. Merrill, Univ. of Delaware, Fla.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802116079
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
03/28/1997
Pages:
139
Product dimensions:
5.68(w) x 8.49(h) x 0.66(d)

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