Shaving by Stephen Berg

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Synopsis

This isn't a book to read aloud in polite company. But what a refreshment that is, given the overpowering strain of gentility and restraint in American poetry. Useful as decorum may be as a poetic virtue in Moore and Bishop, interesting as some poems are by Frost and Stevens that conceal rather than reveal, such tendencies have become moribund in lesser writers. There has been a justly strong reaction against the confessional, suicidal poetry of the Sixties. But Berg's work, while deeply autobiographical, is not confessional. It is meditative, "metaphysical": it presents profound psychic knots and tries to untie them or at least show us their shape. There is an amazing variety in this work, of tone, of movement, of narrative, of anecdote, of subject. Shaving is more presentational and objective (a la Chekhov) than anything by Lowell, Plath or Sexton. The self is certainly a similar amphitheater for Berg, but it isn't inexorably at center-stage; its sympathies and boundaries are wider. And it is this expansiveness (precisely what is lacking in confessional poetry) that is so exhilarating. Something absolutely new is being done in this book.
 

About Stephen Berg

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Stephen Berg is the author of numerous collections of poetry and translations and has been awarded the Frank O'Hara Memorial Prize, a Columbia University Translation Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim, Pew, Rockefeller, and Dietrich Foundations, as well as from the National Endowment for the Arts. Berg has taught at Princeton and Haverford and is currently a professor of humanities at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
 
Published April 1, 1998 by Four Way. 128 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Shaving

Publishers Weekly

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Often a form for those seeking a diversion from the domineering lyric, the prose poem is here vigorously taken up by veteran poet and American Poetry Review editor Berg.

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The Independent

Opera North's new Wozzeck is her first opera production, spare and painfully honest like the best of her theatre work.

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