Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Norbert Hirschhorn
Dear Editor,

Brian Phillips's essay is providentially illustrated by Mary Kinzie's two poems leading off the issue. The poems are identical in form, both have a good "mouth feel," both reflect on the passage of time and generations, both use birds as symbols of a malevolent immortality. Yet to my taste, "Looking Forth" feels bloodless, decorative ("gray runneled / flecked with sunny lichen"), skipping too lightly over three generations; while "Sale" is wrenching. "Sale" focuses on the father from high up in a Wal-Mart. We listen in to him mumbling distractedly. The poem's imagery is plain as day and as poignant ("before the freezer cases of brightly packaged / dinners with too much / sodium and fat"). The father becomes a bird ("he flies up into the highest branches"), another soul departing. With such craft, "Sale" illustrates Lowell's aphorism about poetry (quoted by Phillips) as "beginning in wisdom, dying in doubt." Subjective taste? I think not.


London, England


Originally Published: November 15, 2007

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