In Beauty Bright
W. W. Norton & Company
In his eighteenth collection of poems, Gerald Stern – coveting memories more than confronting mortality – muses, “one brightness was not enough.” Long a master of ecstatic poems, where one ebullient or horrible image tumbles deliriously into the next, Stern shows no signs of temperance or austerity in his old age. He is, in many ways, the polar opposite of his old friend and fellow Pittsburghian Jack Gilbert, the latter circumspect with wonder while the former is supercharged with it. While some of these poems struck me as a little too carefree (I’m all for exuberance, but sometimes I want a poem to slow down), it is hard to begrudge an elder statesman this much continued energy and joy. Even as he opines, “what I loved always got in the way” in the poem “Bio III,” you thank God for all that has gotten in his way and led to poems of such abundance and adoration.