New and Selected Poems,
Robert Sward. Red Hen (CDC, dist.), $24.95 (210p) ISBN 978-1-59709-261-6
Lighthearted at times, but with the weight of grief, indifferent to fashion, terse at times, and trustworthy always, Sward has been coming up with clean, short poems that point straight out of his own experience for more than 50 years, as this eighth book and retrospective attests. Early work mixes sad bon mots with brisk conclusions, as in the cleverly sad conclusion to “Sausalito Ferry Song” or the short poem “Iowa”: “Sixty poets have gone off drunken, weeping into the hills.... Someone scrawls six lines and says them./ What a strange happiness.” That poem refers to the famous Writers’ Workshop. A few poets turn up by name on other pages, but far more often the Chicago-bred, California-based Sward views his family—a first wife, a second, a son, a daughter, a granddaughter—or else representative animals. A parrot “walks up my corduroy jacket/ Sensibly restraining her claws... ‘Yoo-hoo, yoo-hoo, now you say something,’ she says.” Dogs, great symbols of hope, also recur: “In a world of No,/ Dogs are a Yes.” The book’s unadorned last half, though, revolves around the emotional world of Sward’s father, a Jewish podiatrist who became an eccentric mystic later in life, insisting in Yiddish-inflected tones on the vast importance of “the other world,” a sad counterpart to the poet’s own diminished, realistic, and winning views of this one. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/24/2011
Causes Robert Sward Supports
Audubon Society, National Geographic, "Green," the Environment, SPCA...