A sidewalk painter who refuses to hurry his rendition of the Birth of Venus though it threatens to rain, the late-night crying of a daughter, the unexplained suicide of a friend: Salter's ( Henry Purcell in Japan ) perceptions in this Lamont-winning collection are both accomplished and deeply felt. The poet studs the path to an emotional and mental realm with earthly and physical markers. In ``Spring Thaw in South Hadley,'' the ``long scissors of the sun'' send snow crashing from rooftops, and the passage from winter into spring is both violent and triumphant, evoking ``a sacramental joy.'' In the title poem, a man recognizes his mother in a painting she made of him, seeing ``in his flushed face how she'd / re-created there what rose / and fell in hers.'' The narrator of the autobiographical ``Dead Letters'' reads mail still being sent to her late mother, cares for the plants that were in her room when she died, and yet tries to communicate: ``I send / more letters, Mother--these despite / the answers you can't write.'' Salter's silver tongue conveys an oblique but unflinching approach to ever-vital issues--the passing of time, the perseverance of love and memory. (Mar.)
Salter's collection, 1988 winner of the Lamont Prize in poetry, harks back to an earlier era and to an earlier style of poetry. Like Elizabeth Bishop, Salter offers a voice that is relaxed, accessible; the poems contain regular stanzas and frequent rhymes. Her open chattiness in the midst of careful description (for example, of netsuke nut carvings) make the poems read like letters from a friend. These poems about families, friendship, and the passage of time are bittersweet; several focus on a death or irrevocable loss (even if only of a chalk picture in the rain), yet they are upbeat. All the poems are well crafted; and a few are both delicate and profound.-- Cristanne Miller, Pomona Coll., Claremont, Cal.