09/23/2013 02:37 PM
BATON ROUGE – The bravura of David R. Slavitt’s first book of poems, published more
than 50 years ago, continues to reverberate through his newest collection in a voice
matured and roughened by age.
“Civil Wars” available this month from LSU Press, conjures the mutterings of old men:
meditations – despondent yet playfully witty and bold – on the meaning of life and
death, the reasoning for human action or inaction, and misremembered memories. Nothing
proves too lofty or too trifling for the poet’s scrutiny. Slavitt’s attention roves
from the carnage inflicted by of the Achaeans at Troy, to the performances of Borrah
Minevich and the Harmonica Rascals, from meditations on Spinoza to the baseball of
the New York Yankees. He considers with deliberation all of these subjects and deems
them necessary to help create a spiritual connection in readers’ lives. Slavitt encourages
contemplation of the world and writing rather than acceptance of the thoughts of the
critic, who “comes, austere, a man of authority, / and offers to help” but only dilutes
the power of a poem.
In this collection, Slavitt also includes translations of Greek, Hebrew, Provençal,
French, and Old English poems, including a little-known piece by the mathematician
Pierre de Fermat and the Old English epic poem “The Battle of Maldon.”
Slavitt has published more than 100 books, including “The Seven Deadly Sins and Other
Poems,” “Change of Address” and “William Henry Harrison and Other Poems.” Born in
White Plains, N.Y., and educated at Andover, Yale, and Columbia, Slavitt has worked
at Newsweek and has taught at Temple University, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania,
Princeton, and Bennington College.
Posted on Monday, September 23, 2013