Monday, May 31, 2010

Richard Sanger's SHADOW CABINET

I enjoyed Richard Sanger's first collection of poems, Shadow Cabinet, for several reasons. Many one- or two-pagers concentrate on people -- their feelings, thoughts, reactions -- without using them as background props to (said in a hushed, reverent tone) nature, and, indeed, without feeling the need to bring in environmental imagery at all. (There's one remarkable exception, and for an intelligent purpose, but I'll let readers not familiar with the book discover the surprise themselves.) This is a refreshing departure in a contemporary po-world where nature has barged its way into the cathedral again (minus the Romantic counterbalance and metaphorical shading of human complexity) and the priest(ess) is paid a resurgent respect or, at the very least, allowed a benign acceptance. I also enjoyed Sanger's affecting trick of juxtaposing personal experience with historical snapshots in humorous structuring, as in "Travels With My Aunt". And, last but not least, I enjoyed how Sanger was able to bring that historical detail into the readerly living room with fresh diction and lively characterization. There's plenty of room for mixed sympathy; the figures speak, or are spoken for, but the reader is left to form his or her own conclusions.

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