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The Yale Review – April 2008

Its website identifies The Yale Review as the “Nation’s Oldest Literary Quarterly.” The magazine is august, perhaps, but not stodgy, on the evidence of its most recent issue. The strength of this installment is in its poetry, particularly in the selections from Louise Glück, David Wagoner, and Carl Phillips. Glück’s four poems look at themes of loss, in the personal and natural realms. Her final poem, “Sunrise,” connects both spheres: “I had to see if the fields were still shining, / the sun telling the same lies about how beautiful the world is / when all you need to know of a place is, do people live there. / If they do, you know everything.”

Its website identifies The Yale Review as the “Nation’s Oldest Literary Quarterly.” The magazine is august, perhaps, but not stodgy, on the evidence of its most recent issue. The strength of this installment is in its poetry, particularly in the selections from Louise Glück, David Wagoner, and Carl Phillips. Glück’s four poems look at themes of loss, in the personal and natural realms. Her final poem, “Sunrise,” connects both spheres: “I had to see if the fields were still shining, / the sun telling the same lies about how beautiful the world is / when all you need to know of a place is, do people live there. / If they do, you know everything.”

Edmund Keeley’s translations of two epigrams by Asclepiades demonstrate that the extinguishing of love, and life itself, are preoccupations as old as antiquity: “Let’s drink, sad lover. Not far down the road, poor soul, / we’ll have an endless night to rest.”

Peter Demetz was born to a Ladin Catholic father and Jewish mother. His “Days of 1939 and 1941” testifies both to the horrors he witnessed in wartime Prague and Berlin, and to his own longings (for love and literature) that the war could not extinguish. Paula Fox also contributes a memoir of her encounter, again in the 1940s, with Frieda Lawrence in a rugged and now-vanished Taos.

This issue closes with over fifty pages of lengthy book, music and film reviews. In the last of these, Bert Cardullo reviews five older films that he once thought to be minor masterpieces (including Terence Malick’s Badlands and Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller), but now finds diminished and contrived. The point of the essay is not to indict these films, however, but instead to demonstrate how the critic must “continue knocking holes in the past for the sake of furnishing out the present.” Experience and judgment come at a price: the loss of a youthful capacity to be astonished. It’s a provocative conclusion, and one I’ll ponder long after putting down the magazine.
[www.yale.edu/yalereview/index.html]

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