Hayden Carruth is the author of twenty-five books of poetry, a novel, four books of criticism, and two anthologies, and has held fellowships from the Bollingen, Guggenheim and Lannan foundations, as well as the NEA. His many awards include the National Book Award for Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Lenore Marshall/The Nation Award.
Carruth's latest collection revolves around a handful of familiar themes, all of which mingle and reconfigure throughout the poet's bittersweet, sometimes celebratory, occasionally rueful verse. Meditations on aging and love, nostalgia and guilt, contemporary politics and ancient history filter through much of this generally moving, uneven collection. Carruth's voice, always highly personal, is at its best when it mixes colloquial diction with an elegiac lyricism, as in his meditation on family history, "Flying into St. Louis": "For sixty-five years/ I've blamed my mother and father,/ I've climbed their trees and lopped off/ their branches, I've held/ their words in my mind like cudgels." At other times, however, the colloquial takes over and Carruth's verse becomes almost flat, as in "The Chain": "but I am a poet and you are too and so are all people/ except the monsters of this world/ out there planting/ mines in the mud and snow...." Despite its lesser offerings, the collection amply illustrates the openness and honesty with which Carruth addresses the world, the mixed compassion and outrage with which he responds to it and his continued productivity through a long, distinguished career. (Apr.)