“In a time terrible for poetry, when poets refuse the old sybelline role of Explainer and stick only to what lies frozen on the retinas, Irving Feldman’s stanzas open out into pure interesting-ness: they first enchant, then conjure, then conjecture, then figure out, then interpret. Splashes of beauty, yesbut also a fountain of shameless knowing and inspired telling.” Cynthia Ozick
Beautiful False Things
978-0-8021-3657-2 • $13.00 • Paperback • Mar. 2000
This tenth collection of Irving Feldman’s poems extends what readers and critics have long recognized to be a body of work singular in its lyric, visionary, even prophetic intensity; its extravagant wit; its powerful storytelling; its variety of voices and range of feeling—playful, tender, ardent, biting, enthralled. Here, among the major poems of Beautiful False Things: the stand-up comic Larry Sunrise of “Funny Bones” duels with death in Florida; in “Oedipus Host,” Oedipus arrives from his millennia-long trek to host a TV talk show; and the plucky, feminist heroine of “Heavenly Muse” visits yet another barely worthy male poet. In the tragicomic title poem, “translation” comes to stand for the dilemmas of expression in a culture that sucks up language and spews it back.
“Voluptas” Strange to be remembering how
—was it twenty-odd years ago?—
you drew back from one of our kisses,
your head turning half away so that
I saw in our bedroom’s half light
your lovely profile and eye staring
out toward and into a passing thought.
Then all of half your mouth to mine again
with overwhelmed gentleness.
We both were overwhelmed and pulled under.
Strange suddenly to remember this
after so many, many kisses,
after such years of rupturing.
Caught in our archaic caresses
(you know, that same old, old thing):
a space of five seconds of fresh time,
when nothing was happening
and nothing was happening yet.
And I now its voluptuary.