Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Simpson's collection of 49 new poems is an uneven lot. There are a few very strong ones, such as an aching boyhood reminiscence of his father, or quiet dramas that almost mystically regenerate everyday events like going fishing or a dog's death. There are limpid recollections of growing up or of tasting personal freedom in New York City, and amusing swipes taken at academia and literary gatherings, and reflections on the gap between mental constructs and felt, lived experience. Some poems remain little more than dressed-up anecdotes; others are superficial character sketches; the longer narrative-style pieces are close to expository prose. The volume ends with a studied prose account of the poet's 1988 trip with his wife to visit his 92-year-old mother in Italy. Readers who peruse this essay first will better grasp the context of the autobiographical verses. (Mar.)
As in a Chekhov story, writing ``should show the poetry in common things.'' In this collection, Pulitzer Prize-winner Simpson attempts just that, at times succeeding beautifully, as in ``Neptune's Daughter,'' and at other times quite missing the mark, as in ``Car Trouble.'' When Simpson points his lens at the past, the poems work best; family portraits such as ``Villa Rosalinda'' and ``Working Late'' are particularly strong. He is often quite lyrical: ``All the arguing in the world/ will not stay the moon.'' His light ironical touch steers the poems away from sentimentality. He ends with a prose memoir of a visit to Italy where he encounters his mother's increasing fragility and approaching death. A worthwhile purchase.-- Doris Lynch, Oakland P.L., Cal.