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The History of Forgetting
     

The History of Forgetting

by Lawrence Raab
 

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Lawrence Raab's richest work to date-his saddest, funniest, most personal, and most searching book

Of Lawrence Raab 's 1972 debut, Mark Strand wrote:

"This is a first book with more authority and wisdom in it than most poets are able to manage in their entire careers. I am amazed by its casualness and clarity, its forcefulness, its engrossing

Overview

Lawrence Raab's richest work to date-his saddest, funniest, most personal, and most searching book

Of Lawrence Raab 's 1972 debut, Mark Strand wrote:

"This is a first book with more authority and wisdom in it than most poets are able to manage in their entire careers. I am amazed by its casualness and clarity, its forcefulness, its engrossing strangeness." Mystery and strangeness remain at the heart of Raab's work, but now they are revealed more fully through the world around us-everyday deceptions, inexplicable violence, unexpected tenderness, the comedy of hope and desire. In one poem, Proust appears in Raab's class to confront a student who disputes the great author's claim that "the true paradises are the lost paradises." And in the title poem, set just before the Fall, the snake alone understands how people will come to yearn "for whatever they'd lost, and so to survive/ they'd need to forget."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Raab's seventh outing pursues the same theme throughout, in tones as subdued as the subject is harrowing: the poems concern the end of everything-human life, humanity as a species, all that we can be or know or do. "A child dies, love fades, then friendship,/ and soon enough almost everything is gone," says "Nothing There"; "The God of Snow" concludes, regretfully, "that it had all started out so well." Environmental destruction plays a role, too, in these pessimistic tableaux, which at their best recall Thomas Hardy: like Hardy's, though, Raab's sadness is finally personal and has something to do with advancing age. "The sea encourages me/ to think about the past," he writes, "as if I could leave it where it is." His free verse and restrained diction complement his conversational phrasing. There are glimmers of humor as well: "The life of the Japanese beetle/ is pointless and ugly." Raab was a poet to watch in the 1970s, when his early, mildly surrealist collections drew extravagant praise: he has since settled down into quieter modes, the poems' lack of sparkle offset-and then some-by the quality of pathos within their lines. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal

The poems in Raab's sixth collection (after The Probable World) talk like John Donne in Billy Collins's clothing. He employs pop icons, movie madmen, and monsters to explore death, loss, and what it all means to be a planetary dot with immense nuclear capabilities spinning through a universe of dark matter, gases, and dust: "What once was vast/ will be small, what was endless/ will end." The poems probe the welter of forces that rush to fill the voids left by history and a culture all too good at forgetting. The pace is lackadaisical, as if you are strolling casually along with a friend, talking baseball or movies, and the friend suddenly turns and says, "I have two weeks." VERDICT Sometimes the insistence on plain language creates a rhythm that falls flat—the poems peter out, and the pattern becomes formulaic—while others like "A Friend's Umbrella" (about Emerson), "Hawthorne on His Way Home," and "The God of Snow" refocus the metaphysical. The more personal poems are embedded throughout like code; here, too, something truly essential seems at stake. The result is satisfying reading for those interested in contemporary poetry.—Susan Kelly-DeWitt, Univ. of California, Davis


—Susan Kelly-DeWitt

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143115823
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/26/2009
Series:
Poets, Penguin Series
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
112
Sales rank:
928,570
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Lawrence Raab is Professor of English at Williams College, where he has taught since 1976. He is the author of four previous collections of poems, most recently What We Don't Know About Each Other, winner of the National Poetry Series and finalist for the National Book Award.

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