Reviews for This Time : New and Selected Poems


Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 May 1998
Stern is a poet often compared to Whitman, and he does share his great predecessor's appetite for the grand pageant of life, and he, too, is a wanderer, prowling the world with every sense on full alert. The harvest of his long writing life is gathered here in this volume, which includes the best of seven earlier collections and an impressive selection of new poems. Stern is keenly aware of the animal self we still harbor beneath our civilized veneers, and animals figure often in his musings, whether he's contemplating the grace of a landscape or the rhythms of everyday human life as seen through a favorite restaurant's windows. Nothing distracts him from his absorption in the universe, and nothing stands between him and the high tides of emotion that toss, tumble, and destroy the structures we so carefully erect to control memories, thoughts, desire, and fear. Stern lets it all break apart and flow downstream, welcoming the visions such receptivity brings and gazing with equal wonder at life and death. ((Reviewed May 15, 1998)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1998 May #4
At once self-involved and sympathetic, Stern catalogues with wry dexterity a vast range of sensory data and cultural detritus, always united by "women and men of all sizes and all ages/ living together, without satire." This healthy collection of new poems and selections from his seven previous volumes (Odd Mercy, etc.) is remarkable for its generosity of spirit, manifested in a warm surrealism that is often turned with humor toward his own past ("My great specialty was darkness then/ and radiant sexual energy") as a way of understanding the recurrent questions of growing old: "Why did it take so long/ for me to get lenient? What does it mean one life/ only?" The greatest joy here lies in the excellence of Stern's longer sentences, which recall Whitman in their life-like pulse and flow, in their subtle verbal patternings that submerge rhetorical artifice beneath the breath of actual speech. Stern's closing assessment of his poem "Your Animal" is indicative of the ethics of the volume as a whole: "It is my poem against the starving heart./ It is my victory over meanness." When the poet warns, "Nothing is too small for my sarcasm," the counsel is a false snare; irony is not sarcasm, and it is Stern's ironic voice that allows for "some understanding, some surcease,/ some permanence" without lapsing into lyric sentimentality. (June)

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