A Fraction of Darkness (Magill's Literary Annual 1986)
The ldquo;fraction of darkness” which concerns Linda Pastan in this volume of new poems seems to be the entropy implicit in living things; to those who hold these things dear, this threat, as it were, is evident. Perhaps because she knows that she will lose everything that is important to her, including her own life, Pastan presents the critical focuses of her life with a clarity and intensity meant to preserve them—not simply to acknowledge them—as long as possible. She has much to say, therefore, about writing and books, about the sensuous details of her life insofar as they are connected to art and to living itself, and about dying and death.
The experience of writing is essential to Pastan, and she plumbs various aspects of it. For example, she expresses what it is like to be stymied as a writer by comparing it to what it is like, in her view, to be prolific as one. Nature resists her attempt to transform it into words, while a poet like William Stafford is accommodated by nature much in the way that water accommodates a competent swimmer. Pastan also lays bare what writing is like at a young age. In “The Writer at 16,” she shows how absorbed the writer can be with himself, imagining that he has a kind of godlike control over his life, which in reality (Pastan suggests) is difficult and elusive. Art, moreover, has a strong connection to...
(The entire section is 1461 words.)
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