A Generous Manrnby Charles Edward Eatonrn’Poetry is the language of a state of crisis.”rn— Stephane MallarmernDays of Our Lives Lie in Fragments:rnNew and Old Poems, 1957-1997rnby George GarrettrnBaton Rouge: Louisiana State UniversityrnPress; 222 pp., $26.95rnOne of the most important things tornsay about George Garrett is thatrnhis is a generous talent, not hmited orrnconfined by a narrow point of view. It isrnas though he has been searching for thernmeaning of life in many ways and modesrnof expression, including novels, short stories,rnand critical studies, to give only arnpartial list. And, of course, poetr’, alwaysrnpoetry: The Reverend Ghost (1957), ThernSleeping Gypsy (1958), Abraham’s Knifern(1961), For a Bitter Season (1967), Welcomernto the Medicine Show (1978), andrnLuck’s Shining Child (1981). The presentrnvolume, Days of Our Lives Lie inrnFragments: New and Old Poems, 1957-rn1997, is a judicious selection from theserncollections and 30 new poems, spanningrnover 40 years.rnGarrett has always been something ofrnan “outsider,” refusing to go along withrncontemporary dogma both literarv andrnpolitical, at the same time that he hasrnbeen in his amiable way an “insider”rnwith a wide acquaintance among writers,rnand wishing, one feels, that he could assumernthe impossible role of peacemakerrnamong the warring factions that distressrnour times. Consequently, he is a seminalrnfigure reflecting our contemporary restlessnessrnas he searches for some kind ofrnrapprochement, not finding it altogetherrnbut not giving up either: “there are thingsrnso beautiful / and strange the mind can’trnhold / them though it wrestles” (“ThernAngels”).rnCharles Edward Eaton’s 14th book of poetry.rnThe Scout in Summer, will he publishedrnlater this year by Cornwall Books.rnThe title of the new collection is welltaken,rnfaintly echoing T.S. Eliot’srn”These fragments I have shored againstrnmy ruins.” The poems encompass allrnthe variety one could wish for: poemsrnabout everyday experiences, a movingrntribute to O.B. Hardison, the brilliantrnscholar who died too young, poems thatrnrefer to such literary friends as BrendanrnCalvin and John Ciardi, among others.rnOne catches one’s breath, and continues:rnpoems that illustrate a wide interestrnin literature and art, the quotidian in tandemrnwith the loft)’ and cxtraordinar}-. Arnlively and sympathetic interest in his studentsrnis apparent, and he must be a delightfulrnteacher. The remarkable poem,rn”Out on the Circuit,” is an account ofrnthe underlying horror of giving a poetryrnreading that should curl the hair of anyrnambitious oung poet. And yet one feelsrnthat he carried off the mission withrnaplomb. There are many other examplesrnin the book of Garrett the survivor,rnwho has been able to make his wayrnthrough the circumstances of our times,rnexperiencing them but not being overwhelmedrnby them. In another life, hernmight have been a diplomat, warv andrnwatchful, looking for a sane and civilizedrnsolution to many of our problems.rnIt is worth noting that without thernmodishness of the “confessional” poet,rnan informal, non-chronological autobiographyrnemerges from these “fragments”rnas they accumulate. We learn of thernmany places he has lived, his devotion tornwife and children, his love of women inrngeneral —few contemporary poets havernwritten so lyrically, and sometimesrnvoluptuouslv, about them. In the delightfulrnpoem “Grapes,” we learn that hernhas been a soldier in Tuscany and, in thernfinal poem of the book, “Holy Week,”rnthat he is a religious man. “The Magi”rnand other biblical poems confirm thisrnfact.rnTechnically, the poems are smoothrnand fluent, employing a free verse that isrnnot all that free. The early poems makernan adept use of rhyme and meter, andrnthe are an echoing presence in the laterrnwork. You feel that Garrett could easilyrnslip back into rhyme if the occasion andrnsubject were right and that he would notrnbe awkward or ill at ease in doing so.rnOne remembers that Amy Lowell, thernMother Superior of Imagism, insistedrnthat the young poet should have a firmrngrounding and practice in traditional poetr’rnbefore attempting free erse. In an’rncase, Garrett is not prejudiced only in favorrnof untrammeled libertv’, and wouldrnprobably not argue with Byron’s dictum:rn”Eas’ writing makes hard reading.” Thernconviction arises from the poems that hernknows all the fashionable creeds and attitudesrnabout technique but can put onrnblinders when he wants to, and that hernwould not quarrel with Wallace Stevens’rnnotion that the only useful thing to bernsaid about technique is that the poetrnshould be free in whatever form he uses.rnSurprisingly, the Southern landscaperndoes not hover in the background inrnmany of these poems by a native Floridian.rnUrbane and cosmopolitan, ratherrnthan regional, Garrett does not belongrn30/CHRONICLESrnrnrn