5 Degrees and Other Poems

Nicholas Christopher, Author Penguin Books $12.95 (112p) ISBN 978-0-14-058718-0
Hart Crane once wrote to Sherwood Anderson of his hope to find a ``form that is so thorough and intense as to dye the words themselves with a peculiarity of meaning.'' For Christopher, that form is the title poem here, a dense and stunning, often elliptical sequence of 35 interlocking poems. Like the Arctic adventurer John Davis, who figures prominently in the poem, Christopher explores themes of spiritual transcendence, magic and history as they coalesce in the mind of the unnamed narrator one night on the streets of New York City (where the temperature is 5 ). Displaying an almost Borghesian fascination with the underbelly of history, Christopher (In the Year of the Comet) cites Herodotus, lunar cartography and Harry Houdini, linking his poems to resemble a circular room of mirrors. The poems-each shimmering with immediacy-deflect the reader into such subjects as the Nazi occupation of an Aegean island or the friendship between Van Gogh and Gauguin. Along with this difficult but immensely rewarding poem are collected 25 shorter, mostly lyric poems. Notable among these is ``Terminus,'' a powerfully moving political poem written in response to altrocities committed in the Yugoslavian civil war. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/02/1995
Release date: 01/01/1995
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