The prodigiously imaginative mind and penetrating wit of David R. Slavitt are on full display in his newest collection of poetry that is perhaps his most engaging to date. The title poem begins by fooling around-- "With three names like that, it sounds as though his mother is calling him and she's really angry"--but then builds into a shrewd, thoughtful account of the life of the ninth U.S. president. A second long poem offers a fresh and very amusing appraisal of the practice of buying, writing, and sending souvenir postcards. In between this pair, there are shorter pieces impressive in their range and tone and theme (be sure to read "Poem without Even One Word") that dazzle in an already glittering body of work.
Slavitt's poems can be playful, even silly, and then astonishingly convert levity into earnest urgency. Dark lines glint with the light of intelligence and mirth, even as artful puns and jokes reveal a rueful aspect. The poet gets older but his work is as graceful as ever, the lovable little boy signaling from inside the sometimes-cranky septuagenarian.