The variety and range is considerable with such a brief collection. I found myself unable to complete the reading process when I reached the last poem in the book and went back to the beginning to reread some of the earlier poems.
Reviewed by Bob Williams
Interrogations at Noon
by Dana Gioia
Graywolf Press 2001, ISBN 1-55597-318-3, $14.00, 72 pages
This slim volume of thirty-seven poems gives another example of Gioia’s skill with words, ability to evoke moods and to elicit magical combinations. Rhyme and meter play a role in some of these works without being obtrusive. They do not at least obscure the freshness of the poet’s perceptions.
In previous collections of his poems have been works that were inspired or ‘after’ other poets. The number in Interrogations at Noon is greater with two long works – a description of Hades and a meditation of Juno on revenge – drawn from Seneca. In addition there are poems ‘after’ Rilke, Cafavy and Valerio Magrelli. He also uses epigraphs to individual poems as well as to sections. For one of these sections he quotes a poem by Samuel Menashe, a poet well worth the reader’s attention.
The note in these poems is varied with barbed satire as in ‘The Archbishop.’
O do not disturb the Archbishop,
Asleep in his ivory chair.
You must send all the workers away,
Though the church is in need of repair.
Or elegiac as in ‘Pentecost’ on the death of his son.
We are not as we were. Death has been our Pentecost,
And our innocence consumed by these implacable
Tongues of fire.
The number of what is described as ‘form’ poetry is greater than in previous collections. They are modified effectively from the master formulas and his quasi-sestina of ‘Divination’ is a classic example of what freedom can exist within stringent constraints.
The length of poems range form six pages in ‘Juno Plots Her Revenge’ to six lines in the clever ‘Curriculum Vitae.’
The Future shrinks
Whether the past
Is well or badly spent.
We shape our lives
Although their forms
Are never what we meant.
Gioia also includes some of the songs from his libretto for Nosferatu. The variety and range is considerable with such a brief collection. I found myself unable to complete the reading process when I reached the last poem in the book and went back to the beginning to reread some of the earlier poems. Gioia is thus quietly addictive and a pleasant and often moving habit.
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About the Reviewer: Bob Williams is retired and lives in a small town with his wife, dogs and a cat. He has been collecting books all his life, and has done freelance writing, mostly on classical music. His principal interests are James Joyce, Jane Austen and Homer. His book Joyce Country, a guide to persons and places, can be accessed at: http://www.grand-teton.com/service/Persons_Places