The Museum of Clear Ideas

The Museum of Clear Ideas

by Donald Hall
     
 

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This is Donald Hall's most advanced work, extending his poetic reach even beyond his recent volumes. Conflict dominates this book, and conflict unites it. Hall takes poetry as an instrument for revelation, whether in an elegy for a (fictional) contemporary poet, or in the title series of poems, whose form imitates the first book of the Odes of Horace. The book's

Overview


This is Donald Hall's most advanced work, extending his poetic reach even beyond his recent volumes. Conflict dominates this book, and conflict unites it. Hall takes poetry as an instrument for revelation, whether in an elegy for a (fictional) contemporary poet, or in the title series of poems, whose form imitates the first book of the Odes of Horace. The book's final section, "Extra Innings," moves with poignancy to questions about the end of the game.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Death opens this collection of powerful new poems by Hall ( The One Day ) with ``another elegy in the tradition / of mourning and envy, love and self-love--as another morning / delivers rain on the fishbone leaves of the rotted year.'' The poet so eulogized, however, is the fictional Bill Trout, ``twelve Aprils'' dead, and his arcane progress from Idahoan boyhood through midlife detox to madness--typical stations of the contemporary poetic cross--is gently mocked. Irony is the pitch sustained throughout the book, especially in the discursive poem ``Baseball'' (composed of nine innings of nine stanzas of nine lines each), wherein the narrator, K.C. from Mudville, fancifully explains baseball to the dead Dada collagist Kurt Schwitters. To K.C., poets resemble pitchers with their ``fool 'em tricks,'' and the sport transcends motion: ``Baseball, like sexual intercourse / and art, stops short, for a moment, the / indecent continuous motion/of time forward, implying our death / and imminent decomposition.'' Loosely imitative of Horace's first book of odes, the title poem is a tour de force in which witty, allusive Horsecollar (a minor character in Disney comics) debates with the persona of Mister Zero in ``his prophylactic smirking dog-cynicism.'' Horsecollar discourses on rage, advises carpe diem , and cuts to the marrow of sexual passion and the mortal wounds of destiny: ``Do we determine our lives or suffer them?'' Death closes this volume with musings on the end of the game in ``Extra Innings.'' Hall's voice is more mature and classically spare than ever, offering revelatory glimpses of wisdom. (Mar . )
Library Journal
Hall's 11th book of poetry is a brilliantly inventive tour de force that opens with an elegy to a fictitious poet whose life was devoted to ``tapping at blocks of the language.'' But most of the book is taken up by two long poems. The first, ``Baseball,'' allows Hall to adopt the persona of Mudville's K.C., who ruminates about the relationship between art and baseball, ``pitcher and poet.'' The poem is divided into nine ``innings'' or sections, each containing nine stanzas, with nine lines per stanza and nine syllables per line. This concern with craft surfaces in the other long poem, a kind of Horatian ars poetica for the 1990s entitled ``The Museum of Clear Ideas.'' In this witty little masterpiece, Hall becomes old Horsecollar with Bic pen in hand, lamenting the complications of modern life, especially sexual ones enacted by characters with names like Flaccus and Sabina. Even the art of poetry has been destroyed by an army of ``McPoets.'' A significant and engaging book that belongs in all larger libraries.-- Daniel L. Guillory, Millikin Univ., Decatur, Ill.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780395680858
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
02/24/1994
Pages:
128
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.37(d)

Meet the Author

DONALD HALL, who served as poet laureate of the United States from 2006 to 2007, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a recipient of the National Medal of the Arts, awarded by the president.


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