Most of the poems in Parini's third collection are a conventional celebration of domesticity. One section focuses on the sweetness of paternity and family life; another sings the praises of ``the neighborliness of little towns,/ the expectations that are so well met.'' Parini's version of ``America'' is a cloying ripoff of Whitman's grandiloquence, uncritical of ``smokestacks smudging up the sky, the ten-lane highways that converge and tangle/ in spaghetti loops, the open roads/ that make a desert one more backdrop/ as the trucks roll by, the buses, cars.'' Still another section is filled with self-portraits at various stages, beginning with his baptism and Little League days, through youth and middle age, till he imagines himself dead and underground, where he is apparently still happy as a clam. Parini's final poems, which explore the poetic tension between Platonic ideals and the particular things of this world, are the meatiest of the lot. He writes very well and often very prettily about his small and sentimental world, but also very forgettably. (January)
These quiet, contemplative poems find fertile ground in small-town living where ``imperious seasons/. . . make us accede/ . . . to larger motions that we make ourselves.'' Town life is perfectly suited to this poet's muted, self-effacing sensibility, as he seeks to unmask the ordinary and discover ``some intimations of the life to come.'' Perhaps it is just this insistence on seeking regular rhythm in nature that creates a slackness at times in Parini's own rhythms, his own voice. Despite this weakness, there is much to enjoy here, particularly when the poet finds himself in an unfamiliar landscape and must discover ``its alphabet of buzz and drip and flutter'' and where boundaries are not so well defined.Robert Hudzik, P.L. of Cincinnati & Hamilton Cty.