An ant to the stars or stars to the ant—which is more irrelevant?
Weekend Jet Skiers—
rude to call them idiots,
yes, but facts are facts.
Clamor of seabirds as the sun falls—I look up and ten years have passed."
—from "Dawn Notebook"
Such is the expansive terrain of Seven Notebooks: the world as it is seen, known, imagined, and dreamed; our lives as they are felt, thought, desired, and lived. Written in forms that range from haiku to prose, and in a voice that veers from incantatory to deadpan, these seven poetic sequences offer diverse reflections on language and poetry, time and consciousness, civilization and art—to say nothing of bureaucrats, surfboards, and blue margaritas. Taken collectively, Seven Notebooks composes a season-by-season account of a year in the life of its narrator, from spring in Chicago to summer at the Jersey Shore to winter in Miami Beach. Not a novel in verse, not a poetic journal, but a lyric chronicle, this utterly unique book reclaims territory long abandoned by American poetry, a characteristic ambition of Campbell McGrath, one of the most honored, accessible, and humanistically engaged writers of our time.
McGrath's poems, like huge accordion folders-can open up wide enough to let almost anything in. Chronicling a year spent partly in and around Miami, partly in the American Northeast, and mostly with the poet's wife and young sons, this big, ambitious, optimistic volume might also be read as seven short sequences. The "Blueberry Notebook" pays explicit homage to the Pablo Neruda, with odes addressed, like the Chilean's, to unlikely everyday things-"Ode to the Plantar Fascia", "Ode to a Can of Schaefer Beer." "Dawn Notebook" mixes haiku about coastal New Jersey ("What is the dune grass/ trying to do-praise the sun/ or go back to sleep?") with long excerpts from Whitman's prose. McGrath's fast-moving verse and prose may strike unfriendly readers as a bit glib, skipping from observation to observation rather than dwelling intensely on any one scene. Yet, for his fans, that speed is part of the point: in these sets of journals in verse and prose, as much as in his earlier, shorter books, McGrath places his own life on a large canvas, emulating "History," which, he writes "is continuous/ and embraces everything/ without exception." (Feb.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information