Thursday, April 17, 2008

Kleinzahler's new New and Selected

August Kleinzahler's latest - Sleeping It Off In Rapid City (2008) - is subtitled 'Poems, New and Selected', and is described on the front flap as the "first broad retrospective" - the Australian retrospective edition Like Cities, Like Storms (1992) now too old to qualify. The new book is a hefty enough tome - 234 pages - and very many of the early poems haven't made it through the cull. So many didn't make the grade: 'Indian Summer Night: The Haight', 'Love Poem', '16' , '1978, Montreal', ...

Kleinzahler had over time assembled a sequence of poems called 'Four Worthies' ... one poem, on Thomas Urquhart, appeared in A Calendar of Airs (1978). The sequence has been dismantled again and now of the worthies only Australian poet John Tranter remains in the poem 'Tranter in America'.

The new book is organized in five sections which seem to represent selections from earlier books as follows 1. New poems 2. Early poems (Storm Over Hackensack (1985), Earthquake Weather (1989)), 3. Red Sauce, Whiskey and Snow (1995) 4. Green Sees Things In Waves (1998) and 5. The Strange Hours Travelers Keep (2003). However it is worth noting that the poem 'Vancouver' which appears in the first section is a much longer version of an old poem with the same title. Is this an earlier draft reworked, or have other poems or fragments been invisibly mended into the fabric?

In the previous collection - The Strange Hours Travelers Keep - a number of old poems - 'Hot Night on East 4th', 'The Gardenia', '86', and a significantly reworked second-half of 'Evening, in A minor' - were stitched together to make the poem 'Montreal'.

Kleinzahler keeps tinkering with his poems. 'The Last Big Snow' in Earthquake Weather, was divided into two numbered sections when re-collected in Live From the Hong Kong Nile Club (2000). 'The Lunatic of Lindley Meadow' appears in the new book, its major transformation having occurred twenty years ago between A Calendar of Airs, where it was called 'The Lunatic of Mt.Royal' and was built from four-line stanzas, and Earthquake Weather where the stanzas have three lines. '1978, Montreal' was called 'Radio' once ... after the lines 'Down the same shaft old TV westerns / in French', Kleinzahler inserted ''Allons, Monsieur Hopalong". Anyone one day working on a bibliography or critical edition will have their work cut out.

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