Gerald Stern calls upon his own life as a ground for his poems. Showing a horror of lies, treachery, and war, he offers redemption through stark language and plain speech. His poems have an unerring, comic, relentless tone, never didactic, always surprising and rich in metaphor.
|Publisher:||Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.40(d)|
About the Author
Gerald Stern, the author of nineteen poetry collections, has won the National Book Award, the National Jewish Book Award, the Ruth Lilly Prize, the Wallace Stevens Award, the Frost medal, and the Award of Merit (from the American Academy of Arts and Letters), among others. He lives in Lambertville, New Jersey, and New York City.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Stern is great at capturing snapshot images. Many of these poems focus on Stern's memories of his life in the twentieth century. He references wars, Orson Welles, Ted Berrigan's funeral, and Ezra Pound, as well as personal moments, like his sister's death. In true contemporary fashion, he seems to be intentionally obscure and cryptic at times. Stern often mixes concrete images with abstract, and likes to end his short poems with surprising lines.
Stern Vision: A Tree of Hemingway, Yeats, Proust Gerald Stern's new book, Everything Is Burning, is deft, profound, and perhaps the most enjoyable volume of poems composed in English in decades. It is its own masterwork, combining eight decades of Stern's life with his rollicking roving, greedy reading, and hilarious wisdom. He steals from all he is, which includes a Hemingway eye for exact detail and rich simplicity, Yeats's flow and incantation, and Proust's savage memory that makes a daguerreotype of each significant face, trait, and event. This erudite humanist makes you laugh at clumsy ethnicities, cry with compassion for a dead child sister, and wonder before a lily of the field near a Pocano traffic jam where a former wild student suddenly materializes standing on the highway. Elegant surprise follows elegant surprise. He is shock and paradox. A relentless moralist, the outrageously observant Stern is incapable of sternness and an enemy of pomp. When everything is burning, he's there, maybe holding a fedora, taking poetic notes, yet also in the mix to participate and feel. He has lived. And that means with Felonious Monk, cat piss in the South Bronx recording the horror of war camps or sitting alien on a steel railroad track, eating a sandwich. Before his appetite for the fascinating ordinary, lowdown and sordid, the rapturous Mahler, Ecclesiastes and a burned lilac, you must not skip a word, much less a poem, in this beautiful gathering. He takes you to his abode in 'Hemingway's House': I don't want to go to Hemingway's house, let him come to mine, walk in and we'll do The Killers at my kitchen table, he with his back to the Japanese maple, me with my back to the Maytag, ginger ale for one, white rum the other the dragon and the mayfly, death and the knowledge of death, Monk and Bartók all the same to me. I often wonder what makes Jerry run. Of course he has lust in his lungs, and his poetry breathes each year in new ways. Many of our best poets----Eliot, Cummings, Auden, Wordsworth---bloom, mature in their powers, and, alas, wither, becoming a mannerism of earlier word and spirit. Others---Rilke, Yeats, Stevens, or short-lived Wilfred Owen and Hart Crane--- dramatically gain strength. Stern grows. Like his contemporaries Ruth Stone and Stanley Moss, he reveals a cumulatively significant voice, which years magnify. But he remains the child man in his renewals. The vision, lust, and ethics have their unifying center in a bizarre passion, a passion that prevails whether he is out organizing unions, teaching, reading, giving readings, writing books. In those books, memoir, play, essay and poetry, Stern resorts to a spontaneous trickery and wins. With respect to poetic means, in the Eliot and James Wright tradition Gerald Stern sticks primarily to the line, to an enjambed line that stands alone and sparkles, whether with glass, trash, and even when he writes about a fisherman's worm in a can. Somehow the worms end up like stubby fingers in freezing sun-glare. He doesn't scatter his word pictures on the page. A lyrical blank verse determines prosody, and each word counts in lines that follow with compelling speed and rhythm. This perfection of spontaneity creates belief. Consider his poignant poem 'Sylvia' in which he moves from existential speculation to a re collection of his older sister in 1933, a year older than himself, who is dead at nine: Across a space peopled with stars I am laughing while my sides ache for existence it turns out is profound though the profound because of time it turns out is an illusion and all of this is infinitely improbable given the space, for which I gratefully lie in three feet of snow making a shallow grave I would have called an angel otherwise and think of my own rapturous escape from living only as dust and dirt, little sister. In an age of extreme commercial and political conformity, of stifling trash culture that holds dominion in the media, the