The dramatic monologues in Ned Balbo's Lives of the Sleepers are superb, the lyrics enthralling, and the meditations haunting. Balbo's taut lines pulse with life--the life of the moment in which they live and the lives of the great poets whom Balbo has assimilated, and transformed with his love. In the nuanced profundity of the past's living in the present and the present's being alive to the past, Balbo's aesthetic intelligence shimmers in every line of this powerful book.
Many of the poems in Ned Balbo's new collection seem to center around a moment when the various sleepers provided by his erudite imagination awaken into their lives, or into their lives transformed by the strangest of dreams, or into the dream itself. It is perhaps the fact that we are never quite sure which of these situations obtains that gives these poems their impressive force.
To realize the muse is song and not the girl--not the lost girl, not the dead girl (Ophelia, Laura, Alice, Beatrice, or Madeleine)--may be one of the poet's more resisted lessons; nevertheless, Ned Balbo traces this difficult education in new and lovely poems.