Daniel Halpern Jay Parini - Essay

Jay Parini

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Life Among Others is Daniel Halpern's] best work to date, not different in kind but in degree from Traveling on Credit and Street Fire. The new poems intensity and extend Halpern's earlier visions of isolation and loss, and they push outward into the real world of lovers, houses, friends, food. The dreamlike quality of his previous collections persists, as does the claustrophobic aspect of heightened self-consciousness, but with a difference. A newfound transparency, an almost embarrassing directness and simplicity, presents itself here; the poet casts a net over (into) his experience of himself in the world. This is psychic fishing, so to speak, an attempt to retrieve from strange personal depths something of the subliminal energies which charge the dream-world with meaning.

Halpern obliterates normal boundaries of day and night. In doing so, he also blurs the usual limits between self and others or between subject and object…. Halpern traverses an interior world in pursuit of what Yeats called "radical innocence," a condition in which the world outside of the mind and the world within find a natural balance, a dwelling in the evening air. Halpern longs for this sense of equilibrium and acceptance wherein "You are no longer the stranger / who made too little sense."

This ideal state of being remains, as it must, at the edge of Halpern's experience, a luminous stillness like a clearing deep in...

(The entire section is 460 words.)