The Blue Swallows [ePub]

by Howard Nemerov

Some of my impressions of these poems: intellectual, detached, compelling, annoying, dated, but frequently wrapping up with a powerful finish. Most literature from the 1960s leaves me cold, so I'm not surprised at my mixed reactions, and to be honest, the decade was before my time, so I am sure to have missed some good stuff.

The Blue Swallows consists of four sections of poems. The first, "Legends," takes various looks at the sterile, disconnected world created by modernity—a Suburbia of the Soul, if you will, where all mystery has vanished, life is experienced through television and mediated by experts, and commerce rules. Lonely people wander from empty room to empty room and fail to connect with their neighbors, while the vitality of nature flees before us.

This is a familiar landscape, much lambasted by critics before and since, and to what extent anyone actually lives there—outside of angst-y movies, songs and literature—is debatable. The banality of this space has been so well established and so often rejected that picking it apart, once again, seems a bit like overkill. The topic makes me think of the movie Revolutionary Road, for example, which I only watched because of the awesome Kate Winslet, and I really, really hated that movie.

On the whole, I can't say that I liked these poems, but I found them interesting. Unfortunately, I really disliked the next section, "The Great Society." As one might expect from the title, the social and intellectual climate of the 1960s takes quite a drubbing, with extra thrashes for consumerism and academia, and I found these poems to be dated and heavy-handed.

I enjoyed the final section the most, where the poems show a re-engagement with the world's vitality. If the middle section hadn't been so dated, I am sure I would have been more impressed with the book as a whole. I don't want to give the impression that I think The Blue Swallows is bad, for—with a few exceptions—it is not. But the tone and themes have "made in the 1960s" stamped all over it, and as I mentioned, I've never been much a fan of the literature of that decade.

05.09.2010

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