Evil is the theme of this second book by Karr ( Abacus, LJ 9/15/87), and these dark poems are movingly adept. Her material is challenging. "Coleman," the first and best poem, is about a fatal run-in between a small-town gang and the black Southern teenager whom the narrator loves. Not only can Karr handle this kind of subject matter without sentimentality; she is also accomplished at natural-sounding formal meter: "When he stands to cough the syrup from his lungs,/ arrive to sponge him cool, and he cries no/ and no and no, the only syllable" ("Croup"). Occasionally, Karr moves beyond the tight confessional lyric at which she excels to the third-person narrative: in "Don Giovanni's Confessor," for example, the appalled sinner confesses to his priest, who is then thrust into his own horrific recollection. While the jacket blurb claims that Karr writes "for everyday readers," these are complex, intellectual poems. They demand and withstand many readings, and for that one can be grateful. Recommended.
- Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York