New & Selected Poems

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Copper Canyon Press
Publish Date
6.42 X 9.2 X 0.94 inches | 1.13 pounds
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About the Author

Stephen Berg, founding editor of American Poetry Review, is the author of two dozen books of poetry and translations. He is a professor of English at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.


Culled from four previous collections and presenting 10 new lyrics, a selection of short prose pieces and a 20-page meditation ("Homage to the Afterlife"), this volume is unified by themes of family life, friendship, death and respect for the great modern writers. Berg's poetry is largely informed by such earlier sources as Whitman and Williams, and his latest effort is a pastiche of his private experience and diverse reading. The poems often fall flat, lacking the energy that comes from originality. "Last Elegy," for instance, a confessional lyric in the style of Robert Lowell in which the speaker remembers sitting with his dying father and watching Jack Nicklaus on television, examines the ironies and disjunctions of contemporary life without Lowell's linguistic dazzle or sharp wit. The long sequence of adaptations from Berg's earlier book With Akhmatova at the Black Gates is particularly disappointing. The poems sentimentalize Akhmatova's hardships, missing the perfect colloquialism and delicacy of her language. Among the new pieces, the prose section is the strongest, providing Berg with a more natural medium for his voice.
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