Poetry in brief

Five American Poets, edited by Michael Schmidt (Carcanet, £14.95)

This fascinating book gathers together work by students of the poet-critic Yvor Winters in California in the mid-1960s. Robert Haas is in many the ways the most accessible. His writing is warm, immediate, absorbed by imagery and domestic detail as it evokes, in sequences such as “Santa Barbara Road”, the subtleties of the shared moment – “So many visions / intersecting at what we call the crystal / of a common world”. An implied sense of shared experience underpins many of the most successful pieces (John Matthias’s wonderful “Swell” and James McMichael’s “Four Good Things”). Even the writing of John Peck that turns away from the conversational directness and immediacy of the others is driven by the attempt to find parallels and patterns (see the remarkable “Violin”). The poetry of Robert Pinsky aims at a more public and discursive language than the others. But a piece like “The Forgetting” playfully reasserts this belief in common experience – “Hardly anybody can name all eight of their great grandparents. / Can you?”

Charles Bainbridge

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds