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This review is taken from PN Review 33, Volume 10 Number 1, September - October 1983.

LYRIC MATTERS AND MANNERS Lloyd Schwartz, These People (Wesleyan University Press) $10.00, $5.95 paper
Jay Parini Anthracite Country (Random House) $5.95 paper

In a recent review of some new poetry, one of our more perspicuous critics had this to say about poetry reviewing: '. . . since the matter of lyric poetry is always and everywhere the same (time passes, experience teaches, I am young, I am old, nature is beautiful, he loves me, he loves me not, someone has died, I will die, life is unjust, etc. etc.), critics have only two choices - either to repeat, with entire banality, the emotional matter of the poem, or, more interestingly, to engage with the treatment of the matter, the manner of stylization the poet has resorted to.' It's an overstatement, surely, to say that the matter of lyric poetry is always and everywhere the same. Lloyd Schwartz, in These People, has clearly been instructed by his muse to adhere to the underbellies of traditional lyric topoi. Love? Well, at least sex? This is what we get: 'And then he stopped, very sudden. And/that was it./I felt so sick, I just had to get out of there. He was/still in me,/so I pushed him off./I knew he was dead. . . ./Nobody ever did it to me/and died.' ('Estelle's Testimony') Death? Schwartz gives us the death of the old man above; there are many suicide attempts, pills, scars. Life is unjust? Crime, mugshots, terror. Madness. Depression, of which Schwartz is some kind of poet laureate.

If these subjects, this matter, are not quite what we expect of lyric utterance, still ...


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