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This review is taken from PN Review 130, Volume 26 Number 2, November - December 1999.

FAREWELLS AND ENDINGS LINDA PASTAN, Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998 (W.W. Norton) £9.95

Carnival Evening is Linda Pastan's second 'New and Selected' volume - the first, PM/AM: New and Selected Poems, was published in 1982. The present volume contains eleven of the new poems from that collection, as well as selections from the four books that preceded it and the four that have followed. Describing the quiet desperation of domestic life and the felt awareness of time passing, of bring forth and growing old surrounded by family, Pastan gives a comprehensive account of 'the mystery / of the ordinary' ('Woman Holding a Balance').

At their best these slight and melancholy poems attain a limpid poise. Pastan pays particular attention to her line breaks - in 'Voices', she has herself driving 'through / a stop sign, pondering / line breaks'. Using enjambment to create a framework that alternately spurs or frustrates the motion of a poem, Pastan's forms delicately counterpoint and support the poem's overt voice and address. She sometimes uses stanza breaks to reinforce the sense of a poem, as in '1936, Upstate New York'. Here she stretches a sentence across two stanzas - 'At night through the walls // the muffled sounds of German / came from a staticky radio' - making the form echo and embody the walls' division and allowing the page's blank space to muffle the poem's sound.

Addressing her children, her father and mother, grandparents, grandchildren and her husband, Pastan practices a kind of generational poetry, rooted in and written from experience of ...


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