Left-Handed: Poems by Jonathan Galassi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
There's a lot going on with this book. The author wrote for and about a time when he left his wife and kids for another man, literary agent Bill Clegg. It's not like you can fully understand that from the text though. It seems the author hides a lot behind poetic license and double talk to mar the situation and hide his feelings.
Certain elements ring true, the infatuation phase of love is clearly conveyed. His wonder of Clegg is apparent but you can see the path he's on from the beginning. He over thinks the relationship, he's home writing poetry about Clegg while Clegg is I'm guessing living his life. I can relate, it's hard not to let new love enter infatuation. But the author really loses himself, his sense of self worth, he has validity, he brings things to the table too, but he loses sight of these things.
I like that he keeps some rhyming in the poetry and that it often has a strong structure. What is less good is the over analysis to the point of getting lost in the details. The details choke out the emotion. It's like the author couldn't fully let himself express his school-girl infatuation feelings, that he felt he had to be more high-brow than that.
A celebration of the transience of beauty is related as:
FEAST YOURSELF ON BEAUTY
WHILE YOU CAN, THE USELESS
THING: THE NECK, THE HIP,
THE ROAD BETWEEN THE HILLS,
THE SHORT HAIRS ON THE CHIN,
THE SNOW ON THE TABLE.
The snow on the table? I don't understand how the Times says "direct and plain-spoken" of this work. To me he is bringing in metaphors that cannot be understood by anyone who isn't him which really serves to alienate the reader from the emotion of the work. I believe he is intellectualizing with the purpose of keeping us out.
As the relationship deteriorates there really is less and less the ability for an outsider to distinguish what is actually happening or to find the emotion in Galassi's riddles. It ends up making love feel sterile.
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