In his twelfth book of original verse David R. Slavitt leads us to a crossroads where terror, loneliness, and despair are transfigured by love and art.
Much of the collection centers on the poet’s family history. In the title poem, Slavitt imagines the “dour landscape” of the Polish hamlet his grandparents left in search of a safer haven, at the same time that he reflects ruefully on the hazards of contemporary life in America:
but what they abandoned is what I dream of now,
asleep, while people who don’t even know my name
monitor consoles that show
what zones in my house have been violated—what doors
or windows opened, or motion sensors tripped
by the cat or some intruder. On the street, cars
are stolen and stripped
by desperate men, wild children . . . Who can say?
In another poem, he recalls his mother and his discovery only after her death—her murder—that the name she had been given was not Adele but Ida. As a young woman she had chosen to call herself something “not too cute, but not too plain, not Ida.” And it is Adele he decides on for her grave marker, in deference to her whimsical and brave spirit.
Not only family but also the worlds of art, music, and literature animate Slavitt’s verses—from a consideration of the modes of salvation suggested by El Grenco’s and Goy’s paintings of Saint Peter to a reflection upon our common response to a discordantly tuned instrument, from echoes of Paradise Lostto witty and deft variations on Catullus.
Throughout this collection David Slavitt’s keen intelligence, wry humor, and deep compassion shine through. Crossroads allows us to observe a poet working at the peak of his powers.
David R. Slavitt has published over 100 books of poetry, fiction, and translation. This volume marks his twenty-second collection of poetry with LSU Press.
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