Friday, November 20, 2020

In Search of the Great Dead (mini-review)

In Search of the Great Dead (1999) by Richard Cecil

I've mentioned in previous poetry reviews how difficult it is for me to review books of poems. I just know what I like and what kind of poetry moves me. I feel like I can say with Emily Dickinson: “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry.” If the poems make me feel a certain way when I read them, then I know that they are good.

For even the greatest dead,
if death isn't just dirt in the mouth,
must moan with their reedy voices
for the life they lost to be famous.

Richard Cecil's poetry is full of ghosts--the ghosts of the great literary dead lying in their graves in the title poem to his own ghost flitting through his dreams to the ghosts of words just written and lost when a power outage erases his laptop screen before they could be saved. His book is a search for the precious things and people who have been abandoned or lost through the years. Deeply moving and eloquent, thoughtful and intelligent. ★★★★

First line (of the book): In Paris, Vallejo's hotel
                                      near the Bibliotheque Nationale

Last line (of the book): as I beat my wings and leapt
                                      into the idiot serene.

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