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This review is taken from PN Review 32, Volume 9 Number 6, July - August 1983.

'WE LIVE HERE NOW' John Matthias, Crossing (Anvil) £3.25

John Matthias's latest collection of poems is dedicated in part to a house, his mother-in-law's Cherry Tree at Hacheston in Suffolk, the great-timbered rambling childhood home of his English wife. For Matthias, a Columbus Ohio Anglophile perpetually in partial self-exile, this house is a focal point (antithesis or mirror image?) in space/time that draws him in turns and crossings from that original midwestern American focus (e.g., his first book, Bucyrus).

For Crossing he begins to cut his moorings with 'In Memory of the American Fifties', 'On Lake Michigan I and II', 'In Columbus, Ohio', and four more poems which entwine and unravel his observations of himself observing a self that travels with him as part of the developing persona of this long book. From post-adolescent loves to married love to speculations on a marriage that might have been, to his very immediate sense of fatherhood, Matthias molds a rather private sphere within his contexts of world politics, figures from his American poetic tradition, foreign travel, and the formalities of living and dying that are the concerns of adults. He is constantly coming to terms with what is through speculations on the hypothetical. In his ability to collapse time through sympathy, in never letting go of anything of significance, Matthias's courage as a person and poet lies. It is as if speech acts must replace physical acts; as if contemplation (seeing, naming, knowing) is the real craft of living - for him. Others will fry sausages or go ...


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