This isn't a book to read aloud in polite company. But what a refreshment that is, given the overpowering strain of gentility and restraint in American poetry. Useful as decorum may be as a poetic virtue in Moore and Bishop, interesting as some poems are by Frost and Stevens that conceal rather than reveal, such tendencies have become moribund in lesser writers. There has been a justly strong reaction against the Confessional, suicidal poetry of the Sixties. But Berg's work, while deeply autobiographical, is not confessional. It is meditative, 'metaphysical': it presents profound psychic knots and tries to untie them or at least show us their shape. There is an amazing variety in this work, of tone, of movement, of narrative, of anecdote, of subject. Shaving is more presentational and objective (a la Chekhov) than anything by Lowell, Plath or Sexton. The self is certainly a similar amphitheater for Berg, but it isn't inexorably at center-stage; its sympathies and boundaries are wider. And it is this expansiveness (precisely what is lacking in Confessional poetry) that is so exhilarating. Something absolutely new is being done in this book.
Founder and co-editor of The American Poetry Review, STEPHAN BERG has written and published numerous books of poetry and translations. He has received Guggenheim, NEA, Ford Foundation, Rockefeller, Dietrich, and Pew Fellowships, as well as Poetry magazine's Frank O'Hara Memorial Prize.
What People are Saying About This
". . .Stephen Berg's Shaving is the first book of prose poems I have read that has made me re-examine the function and power of that branch of our poetry. It is a book of strenuous and often dangerous self-witness; an astounding overview of American urban life at the apex and turning point of a major civilization. . .most importantly, it is brilliantly written. . .In reading Berg you will be reading the master of the prose poem."