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Vain empires: poems by William Logan
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Vain empires: poems (1998)

by William Logan

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Epigraph
Advise if this be worth
Attempting, or to sit in darkness here
Hatching vain empires.

Paradise Lost
Dedication
For Richard Howard and David Milch
lux et veritas

To summer's grate, the firefly's brief glow
add its dying ember's caveat.
Emptor, warn our ancestors, who know
that death, like love, is sometimes dearly bought.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140588949, Paperback)

William Logan is one of the most recognizable (and controversial) poetry critics of the 20th century. As a critic, Logan passionately adores (or abhors, depending on the poet) poetic language; as a poet, his extensive historical knowledge, unsentimental voice, and polished writing glisten like crystal. Vain Empires, his fourth collection of poetry, is reminiscent of some of his earlier books (Difficulty and Sullen Weedy Lakes), as he again tackles historical anecdote through detached, disillusioned eyes. But any poetry reader will appreciate Logan's talent of bending and twisting words into unique, astute sculptures: "Praise the narrow waters of religion / closed as a dolphin's mouth, or dauphin's skull." Much of this book contains the kind of verses worth savoring both for their sharp commentary as well as their refined lyrical forms. Note this line from "Tristes Tropiques": "Learning how to die / is finally just an art, / says the shopping mall / to the shopping cart." At times playful, at times pastoral, Logan's poems are always colored by his deep well of scholarly intellect, as especially visible in "The Secession of Science from Christian Europe," "Keats in India," and "The Death of Pliny the Elder." Though some readers may find him a bit too unwilling to share emotions beyond grouchy resignation, poems such as the humorous "Florida Pest Control" and the sweeter "A Version of Pastoral" strike a nice balance. --Karen Karleski

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:05 -0400)

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