The Invention of the Zero

The Invention of the Zero

by Richard Kenney
     
 

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'Four narrative poems make up the heart of the book. Although they range across eons and firmaments, each is anchored in the Pacific Ocean and the Second World War... The Invention of the Zero was compelling enough to inspire me to read it twice aloud. I don't know when I last found a book of contemporary verse so enlivening in this hurtling, hellbent way...He is+… See more details below

Overview

'Four narrative poems make up the heart of the book. Although they range across eons and firmaments, each is anchored in the Pacific Ocean and the Second World War... The Invention of the Zero was compelling enough to inspire me to read it twice aloud. I don't know when I last found a book of contemporary verse so enlivening in this hurtling, hellbent way...He is+ one of the most gifted and multifaceted and original of American poets.'

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Kenney's ( Orrery ) third book offers prize-winning poems, but it is an odd amalgam of the language of Joseph Conrad and Herman Melville raised to fever pitch. The four long poems of the book are narratives, though their events serve largely as the basis for a rhetoric that may distance the reader from Kenney's dramatic intentions. In the longest poem, ``The Encantadas,'' the captain of an anti-aircraft battery located in the Galapagos Islands during W. W. II chronicles his time there, pushing the tension in the tale. ``Typhoon,'' an account of ships lost in a storm, is about ``a hundred twenty war- / ships held in close formation,'' more than about the destruction of human life. Kenney fills all his poems with admirable turns of language (``we xylophoned / tin cups across the ringing iron meridians / from home''), but does not always choose to involve us in mystery on a human scale. The book opens and ends with quotes from physicists, and the title poem describes the first atomic bomb blast. Kenney ends the poem: ``--the day they lanced / the surfaces of things, and bled from a fist / of warm earth the quick inhuman light of stars.'' That ``inhuman light'' seems to be his poetic focus. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Kenney is a word weaver, composing poems with strands of language from nuclear physics, paleontology, geology, and astronomy. As in his previous book, The Evolution of the Flightless Bird (Yale Univ. Pr., 1984), his verse is dense with allusions. Here, one hears echoes of Newton, Melville, Hart Crane, and the Bible. The ``zero'' in the title refers to states of pure vacuum, as shown in four long narratives (each based on fact): the detonation of the hydrogen bomb in New Mexico, soldiers abandoned on the Galapagos Islands in 1944, a typhoon that nearly destroyed the U.S. Navy Third Fleet, and the death of a navy parachutist. Kenney loves onomatopoeia (``the rain's insane spit/ and hiss'') and unique metaphors (the earth as ``a blue-green . . . olive''). Readers of this book will have a fresh appreciation for all life as ``a scattering of star-stuff.'' Recommended for all larger collections.-- Daniel L. Guillory, Millikin Univ., Decatur, Ill.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679749974
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/18/1995
Edition description:
REPRINT
Pages:
158
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.18(h) x 0.56(d)

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