The Disappearing Trick
Booklist Reviews 2007 August #1
Autobiography is the mediocre default mode of modern American poetry, yet Roberts, who has mined his dysfunctional family of origin, Catholic schooling, libidinous longings, and other personal tribulations for decades, writes outstanding autobiographical poetry by carefully conjuring the scenes, actions, and sequences of what he reports and letting those details, rather than any stated feelings about them, evoke the reader's empathy. Moreover, his poems are like IMAX films of the imagination; it takes real effort to disengage from them. The reader isn't the father trying to get more than monosyllables out of his scion in "At the Breakfast Table with My Seventeen-Year-Old Son," nor the boy trying to please mother in "Washing the Steps," nor the son recalling dead parents and a mad brother, nor the friend checking in on a much older fellow poet, nor any of the other speakers of Roberts' poems. But Roberts so reliably implicates our common humanity that it feels as if the reader were all those people. Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.