Ants on the Melon (Magill Book Reviews)
Virginia Hamilton Adair’s first published collection of poetry has emerged when the author, at age eighty-three and blind, succumbed to the urgings of her longtime friend, poet Robert Mezey, and consented to a winnowing of a lifetime of poetry writing, arranged the poems in six sections. The first section, “Ants on the Melon,” while in no way “sentimental” (Adair is far too strong a thinker to fall into that mode) is, as is the entire volume, full of sentiment. (Adair has far too strong a heart to eschew feeling, passion, pain.)
Partly because of Adair’s having lived a long and intense life, and partly because of her strong sense of craft and the requirements of form, individual poems and the volume as a whole always reveal the shadow as well as the sunlight, the frost as well as the warmth, usually in the last three or four lines of the poem. One finds the incredible pain, passion, and bafflement that is our lot as human beings rendered with a powerful command of form—rhyme, meter, stanza—of language, image, and metaphor, a bulwark to the unbearable. The final section, “Make Light of Darkness,” celebrates the gifts of memory, of poetry, of friends, and certainly of courage as she continues a lifelong daily habit writing poems on an old Olympic portable, making sense out of all of life’s character, nothing denied except, remarkably, self-pity.
In this exquisite volume, one finds then a superior craftsperson, keen in her...
(The entire section is 370 words.)
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Ants on the Melon (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Virginia Hamilton Adair’s first published collection of poetry, has emerged when the author, at age eighty-three and blind, succumbed to the urgings of her longtime friend, poet, and neighbor in Claremont, California, Robert Mezey, and consented to participate in the winnowing of a lifetime of poetry writing. Mezey provides a graceful and illuminating afterword to this volume, outlining the principal biographical facts and locating the germ of his idea that she should “think about a book” in a reading she did at Pomona College in 1982. Adair, whose sight was failing at the time and who was still teaching at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, a few miles to the west, was not to be hurried into such a project. After all, she had always read, written, and loved poetry; she had published poems in the 1930’s and 1940’s in such magazines as The Saturday Review of Literature, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New Republic and was always ready with a witty and clever poem on the occasion of a colleague’s birthday or retirement from Cal Poly. Yet she was also quite busy raising a family of three children and running a household in Williamsburg, Virginia, and later, when her husband, distinguished historian Douglass Adair, accepted an appointment at the Claremont Graduate School, in Claremont, California. She taught at several local colleges, achieving the rank of full professor at Cal Poly, Pomona, where she enjoyed a solid...
(The entire section is 2098 words.)