Albert Goldbarth’s Budget Travel through Space and Time is his best book so farwhich is saying a good deal, since Goldbarth has published more than twenty books of poetry, four collections of essays, and a novel. So it was dismaying to see this major achievement dismissed in your pages by a callow reviewer who obviously hadn’t even read the book all the way through, let alone closely and carefully.
It isn’t true, as your reviewer says, that “There can’t be any meaning in the connections the poems draw when it’s practically a premise that connections can be drawn between anything.” Beyond the sloppy grammar (between anything?), the connections Goldbarth makes are surprising, but never random or arbitrary. Rather, they operate with laser-like precision to illuminate and connect apparently disparate elementsa metaphorical vision found at the heart of all great poetry.
Your reviewer is also far off the mark when he says that “Gold-barth’s work amounts to a poetry of lists.” No. Goldbarth’s work could more accurately be described as extended meditations on the broad topic of what it is to be human, and within that what it is to love, what a human life canand cannotmean, the infinite shadings of human thought and emotion. One of the great strengths of the poems is that these questions are always grounded in particularsthe specifics that the reviewer mistakes for lists.
These poems are brilliant, moving, consoling. It’s ironic that your reviewer says that Goldbarth writes in part for “our adolescent delectation,” when the reviewer is the one with an adolescent sensibilityno attention span, no ability to see beyond the surface, no concept of historyand Goldbarth the wise, funny, generous grown-up.
Port Townsend, Washington