THIS TIME: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS offers a wide selection from Gerald Stern’s work, beginning with REJOICINGS (1973) and continuing through six more volumes to a selection of uncollected poems. It includes many earlier works which are no longer readily available. To read through the collection is both to see the evolution of Stern’s work and to sense the coherence of its fabric. Throughout his career, Stern has returned repeatedly to certain techniques (most notably surreal patterns of imagery and his fondness for long lines) and to familiar themes—animals, a celebration of self, and an interest in American settings and historical figures.
Stern’s use of surrealism is one of his most striking characteristics. His poems often follow intuitive pathways as in “The Shirt Poem.” Others, such as “Behaving Like a Jew,” rely on more ordinary senses of time and location.
Stern uses his poems to embrace life; they are rife with references to everyday animals as well as to names of friends, neighbors, and historical figures ranging from Immanuel Kant to Jane Fonda and place names ranging from Route 30 to Lambertville, New Jersey. Stern uses these along with a long line, repetition, and many lists to celebrate the world that he says is no desert, even when it is ugly. His relationship to Walt Whitman, with whom he is frequently compared, is obvious.
Stern holds a significant place in American poetry; he has published a large body of work and has received critical acclaim for it; not surprisingly, this volume has already received substantial critical attention.
Sources for Further Study
The American Poetry Review. XXVII, July, 1998, p. 41.
Booklist. XCIV, May 15, 1998, p. 1590.
The Nation. CCLXVI, May 11, 1998, p. 49.
The New Yorker. LXXIV, November 16, 1998, p. 103.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLV, May 25, 1998, p. 84.
Southern Review. XXXIV, Fall, 1998, p. 736.