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This review is taken from PN Review 213, Volume 40 Number 1, September - October 2013.

Paying the Toll david ferry, Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations (The University of Chicago Press) $18/£11.50
david ferry, On This Side of the River: Selected Poems (The Waywiser Press) £12.99

David Ferry's Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations is an interestingly bifurcated book. The new poems reveal the poet grappling with age, loss and death both as something that has happened to others and as something that will happen to him. (The volume of selected poems by Ferry, On This Side of the River, also places him right on the edge of life, near to crossing over.) There are reminiscences of friends who have gone before but also the claustrophobic feeling of imprisonment, both literally and metaphorically: 'What am I doing inside this old man's body? / I feel like I'm the insides of a lobster…' It's not, like Gregor Samsa's metamorphosis, that he's turned into a crustacean but that the carapace has grown up around him to keep the world out. It's akin to the horror of someone who is apparently comatose but still fully conscious: 'and seeing, outside of myself / From here inside myself, my waving claws.' Mind/body duality is severed and entropy and diminishment is the only way forward. As the poem 'The Intention of Things' puts it:

Implacable, bewildered, it moves among us
Seeking its own completion, still seeking to do so,

But also putting it off, oh putting it off,
The death that is coming, what we are coming to.

The last line is particularly good for the sense of imminent collision: death coming to us, us to death. The tone in these ...


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