"Revell's elegiac poems move quietly and thoughtfully through a group of juxtaposed subjects: absence and presence, grief and joy, reality and story, the poet's testimony set against the realization that 'so many things arrive as themselves and need / no witness.' . . . Revell represents a prevalent poetic style, the sincere and personal reverie with philosophic implications. He handles this mode with near flawless grace."
"Revell seems to me a major new voice in American poetry. Again and again I was surprised by the calm ease of his effortlessly propelled lines which always took me to unexpected places even when they sounded most reassuring and familiar. He wears his transparent style modestly, yet it kept making me sit up and take notice. . . . He has found a language of great strength and elasticity and he is using it to say remarkable things. I am convinced he will say great things in it."
In Donald Revell’s poems, the present is often little more than an instant caught between the sadness of memory and the need to face the future’s blank expanse. Even the best dreams recall happiness that cannot be retrieved, while the worst memories bend past love into a crazy line through darkness: "Anything can turn furious. The crazy / line through wreckage that wears my face and all / the faces seems not to end. And on the way, / even the most damaged things have one / surface glazed, a sudden distorting mirror / that I can’t help finding. There, I look as I did / stalled in hours or places it is shame / to remember. The Eumenides are slow / vengeance, meted out by anywhere love fails / in the collapse and angry dealing of self-love. / The light presses. The air presses hard and no / story of mine if good enough to hold out."
When there is escape, calm in these poems it is often in thoughts of distant lands and pasts, in the works of other writers and artists--the bands of light and changing shadows of Cezanne’s canvases, the suburban desire and deep green lawns of Cheever’s fiction. It is art, stories, the urge to tell that brings hope in these lines.
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