Rhapsodies of a Repeat Offender: Poems

Overview

The collection's cornerstones are two rhapsodies - long poems which combine the richness of a novel, the intimacy of a lyric, and the immediacy of a performance. At the climax of the first, the poet meets his double, a dying boy whose shameful moniker is "Baldie." As if in response to this explosive confrontation, the poet dares to write a second, wilder "Rhapsody" - a confessional, improvisatory fantasia, virtually a book in itself, where abjection blossoms into formally-innovative extravagance. Three sequences ...
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Overview

The collection's cornerstones are two rhapsodies - long poems which combine the richness of a novel, the intimacy of a lyric, and the immediacy of a performance. At the climax of the first, the poet meets his double, a dying boy whose shameful moniker is "Baldie." As if in response to this explosive confrontation, the poet dares to write a second, wilder "Rhapsody" - a confessional, improvisatory fantasia, virtually a book in itself, where abjection blossoms into formally-innovative extravagance. Three sequences complete the collection: "Piano Life," a series of haunted meditations on music and mortality; "Erotic Collectibles," a disarmingly unsentimental account of sexual awakening; and "Star Vehicles," in which the poet sees his perplexities reflected in Bette Davis, Sophia Loren, Ida Lupino, and other leading ladies.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Koestenbaum's ( Ode to Anna Moffo ) second volume of poetry reads like a catalogue of immediacy, of mystical and erotic ecstasy so emotionally charged that one cannot quite call it confessional--the energy gathered into these poems creates a voice of its own. The book is comprised of a series of poems caught between two long vertiginous works, both aptly entitled ``Rhapsody.'' The first recollects, with lyrical precision, his childhood, his first lies (``My mother is pregnant'') and his first apprehension of ``atoms exploding in fission'' incarnated in a terminally ill young boy named ``Baldie'' who, with ``molten collision,'' refuses to be tormented by a school bully. When Koestenbaum recalls his piano lessons, he seemingly slips in his own ars poetica : ``I can't / depend on pressure for crescendo, but / must dement the rhythm so it / stumbles, hesitates expressively, the line / opening its heart in quick crotchets.'' (The utterances that make up the last poem do exactly this.) He seeks to ``ambush'' his self-conscious side, which has kept him from ``the inspiration to speak without error or apology!'' So, speak he does--improvising, questioning and probing with a directness that doesn't so much draw you in as recklessly push you along. If less ambitious readers find they need a break from these brilliantly exhausting works, they can turn to the poetry that falls between the pillars of his two ``Rhapsody'' poems, and find Koestenbaum focusing on his homosexual awakening and his relationship to classical music. This magnetic collection, once started, is difficult to put down. And once finished, readers may find themselves turning to page one and starting all over again. (Apr.)
Library Journal
If beauty and truth are the hallmarks of quality verse, then Koestenbaum (Ode to Anna Moffo and Other Poems, LJ 9/15/90) has climbed the pinnacle and raised his arms in triumph with this work. His poems center on the power of the word, to which he surrenders; he is thereby liberated to ``say something clearly and pack [his] voice away.'' The reader is taken on a journey through music, mortality, sexual revelation, and a young man's affinity for the leading ladies of the silver screen. However, the masterpiece of the volume, a book in itself, is the poem ``Rhapsody,'' in which Koestenbaum uses his love for music (an extension of the word) to take the reader on a nine-part expedition that is intimate, yet not confessional; improvisational, yet not reckless; fantastic, yet not garish. This may well be the best long poem since John Berryman's Homage to Mistress Bradstreet. Koestenbaum succeeds because he possesses the poet's true courage: he has composed ``a poem [that] should be the letter you dare not write or send.'' Highly recommended.-Tim Gavin, Episcopal Acad., Merion, Pa.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780892552122
  • Publisher: Persea Books
  • Publication date: 8/28/1995
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 120
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Table of Contents

Rhapsody 11
Piano Life 20
Erotic Collectibles 26
Star Vehicles 41
Rhapsody 51
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