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The whole of America is now the arena; this is a big and indispensable plank of modernism wherever it is found in the country. In the second culling of the Southern Renaissance the arena has spread as wide as the world at times, as in a poem by Yusef Komunyakaa, “Saigon Bar Girls, 1975”: . . . Is she among those disappearing from off-limits doorways, leaving sloe gin glasses with lipstick prints? Years work like a search party behind masks. Unmirrored, she forgets her lists of Mikes, Bills, Joes & Johns, letting her clothes fall into a hush at her feet. Here is a commentary on a tragic circumstance that is now a commonplace in American awareness and self-awareness, as America, since World War II, has taken to adventuring to the other side of the globe as well as to Central America. Here the ability to say a great deal in a very few words another big plank in the platform of both Modernism and Post-Modernism is fully evident. A national consciousness and conscience are involved now, and they are front stage, all compacted in the teasing word “hush.” The tone of the Furies that Warren commanded in “The Ballad of Billie Potts” is not here, but something else is, suggestive of even worse. This is the suggestion of imperial design strung on the frame of exploitation and mass ruin. An accompanying worst is the acquiescence in the imperial undertaking that now seems to be everyone’s. Only one girl might have held out against its brutal erosion. But did she? The poem ends in a question, a question that, in 1988, hangs over our whole national fate. Donald Justice, who, far from focusing on a Saigon bar girl, focuses on New England in “Cambridge in Winter” and concludes with these last four lines: The winter sunsets are the one fine thing: Blood on the snow, some last impassioned thing, A wild frankness and sadness of surrender As if these cities ever could be tender! While the granite of the New England soul is recognized here, the recognition is modulated with a lyrical salute as well, coming out of the generally national ethos from which so many of the Southern poets in this book now write. Compare this mixed tone with the even more heightened mixture of tone adopted by Robert Lowell, one of New England’s own, in “For the Union Dead” for instance, the lines on Colonel Shaw, who led “Negro infantry” in the Civil War: He is out of bounds now. He rejoices in man’s lovely peculiar power to choose life and die when he leads his black soldiers to death, he cannot bend his back. Both of these quotations, one from a Southerner, the other from a Northerner, salute and at the same time raise the most serious questions about the same phenomenon, the ethos of New England, as it was and still may be. The two poets have joined hands in a common anxiety and the once intense partisanship between the two regions is gone. In their eyes they are viewing history from a distance, but their intensity is now on the question that the Saigon bar girl just left the reader with: what price an imperial state? This question, which is really basically political, makes for the age of anxiety in which we are all only too conscious of living in these days. THE MADE THING also includes a selection of sacramental poems deserving of their own honors and accolades, works of funerals, recitals of death, and elegiac pieces generally. This has long been a favorite mode in the South, but now that mode has been brought over from its regional past with the rare enrichment that came with the new poetics. James Dickey’s “The Hospital Window” and James Applewhite’s “My Grandfather’s Funeral” are two of the finest. Wendell Berry’s “The Peace of Wild Things” conducts us out of anxiety with a surety of tone and reflection that reminds us of what only poetry can do. Berry’s “The Grandmother” and “Grief” hold us in the same spell. Another superlative elegy, a sonnet, Jim Wayne Miller’s “Closing the House” has so resonant an ending that it must be quoted: . . . Mule -footed plundering done, the rooms all sacked, now only the furrowed shell that stops the door remains, impounding the roaring foaming fact all the years. I pick it off the floor. It murmurs in my ear, floods my breath, and drowns me in the sea-sound of your death. Walter McDonald’s “Never in My Life” belongs to this same pantheon. As do still others. The editor himself, Leon Stokesbury, a Southeast Texan now on the faculty of Georgia State University, has -a poem in this book that deserves special mention because it so singularly exemplifies the coming of age of Southern poetry in these times. It is a poem about, or starting from, Renoir’s “The Luncheon of the Boating Party.” Its complete immersion in another culture and time is a stunning performance in itself. The Impressionistic shimmer that is the Renoir trademark seems to cling to Stokesbury’s words and rhythms. Truly a bravura piece that belongs with the best of pure interplay among the arts. Rhythmically Stokesbury is a virtuoso. The pervasive sacramentalism in this collection issues finally in a poem that is deeply concerned with death, like the others here mentioned, but goes beyond them in certain stark and needful ways. It is an appropriate conclusion for this review because, in its own way, it points to a field of speculation about the poetry of the last decade of the century and maybe beyond. It is a poetry, as I say, not yet written, but the new and wonderfully particularized memorial to the Vietnam soldiers in Washington, D.C., to which are added so many weeping and searching real-life figures, is the appropriate reminder of it. It is a poetry that gives us unrelentingly the terrible dilemmas and postures of an age in which long years of bullying in Central and Latin America have turned into imperialism that coats itself in false rhetoric and sometimes blustering, sometimes secret initiatives. When Auden wrote of the 1930s in England, he wrote ” . Of a low dishonest decade . . .” The United States cannot afford to have such in the next ten years, from 1988 on. The poetry that is waiting might have something to do with this. In R. S. Gwynn’s foreshadowing poem “1916” five narrators speak their parts, each within a strict sonnet: A war-seasoned British soldier at Gallipoli discussing Rupert Brooke’s “. . . some corner of a foreign field / that is forever England;” Henry James speaking as the prophet of Winston Churchill attempting penance in the old heroic mould for his part in catastrophic war strategy; Cathleen Nesbitt, another voice for Brooke, who loved him but saw him “dreadfully betrayed”; and a final soldier’s voice speaking from Brooke’s grave. The words that he speaks, as a sort of valetudinarian for this group, are from Pope’s translation of the Odyssey: Rather I’d choose laboriously to hear A weight of woes, and breathe the vital air Than reign the sceptered monarch of the dead. If anything brings a perdurable classicism to life in a time of prevalent general wallowing, this should do it. It throws a steady but warning searchlight on the unrelieved darkness of Henry James’s sonnet. “Beautiful History, I can’t reach you” is the last line of Cathleen Nesbitt’s sonnet. The death drives of the Freudianism driven too deep into our society, from 1916 to the present, here get their comeuppance. It is indeed “Beautiful History” that has here reached this poet, and none too soon. I highlight this poem, not because of its exquisite finish many poems in the volume have this but because of its use of history in a way that reminds us of nobody on the American scene as much as it does of Auden on the English scene in the 1930s. It is a use of history that 20 MAY 6; 1988