Barry Spacks's Teaching the Penguins to Fly is a … sophisticated and professional book, at least in the superficial senses of the words…. [Here one finds] the tender clutter, the good beer and coffee quotidian of anybody's life, no further shaped nor understood.
Far too often Spacks has no subject…. But this most valuable and difficult poetry requires a special emotional and intellectual comprehension, and Spacks rarely achieves it. (pp. 379-80)
Although he usually writes in none, Spacks sometimes uses one of several forms, and sometimes well. In "Comparing X-Rays" the iambic rhythms are the plodding, dull movements, imagined by people who have not read Momaday, Elizabeth Daryush, Frost, Cunningham, Stevens, Tate, Ransom, and Winters, to be inherent in a twentieth-century accentual-syllabic line; and the fourth line falls apart in an uninteresting way, perhaps in the struggle for rhyme…. (p. 380)
Most of the best poems occur in the final section of the book. These are often simultaneously curious and unpretentious poems, written in what at least approaches real prosody—often in the new unrhymed four-stress podic line ("Foolfish"). Several of these poems successfully personify animals, plants, or abstractions….
These poems skirt the danger of excessive allusiveness or, alternatively, irrelevant circumstance—a common problem in modern art which causes it to age...
(The entire section is 444 words.)