Monday, December 13, 2010

Steven Heighton's Patient Frame

Steven Heighton has never been afraid to tackle weighty topics in his poetry. 2010's Patient Frame is no different. Poems on the My Lai massacre, sexual abuse of boys by catholic priests, and a murder by a white supremacist are augmented by other historical and contemporary studies, often in first-person supportive reminiscence or measured accusation, depending on the focus. Despite the scope exhibited here, I preferred, by far, the personal reflections: "Home Movies, 8 mm" is a heartfelt observation and speculation on memory, and goes beyond the common path of pat elegy into personal regret for past impatience; "Herself, Revised" is another intelligent consideration of growth and moving on containing the sublime lines, "intent on life--/so implied in its stretching crewelwork/of seconds".

The casual conversational asides ("you see"; "But hell,/someone around here ought to know.") are at times unconvincing, but Heighton's best poems (in his five-book corpus) are among the best by anyone in this country, past or present.

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