Friday, February 8, 2008

Toad to a Reviewer

Toad to a Nightingale, Godine's second collaboration of the brothers Leithauser, was reviewed in the Boston Globe this week, along with XJ Kennedy and Kenneth Koch:

'Light verse of an elegantly whimsical bent has long been a sideline trade for the industrious poet and novelist Brad Leithauser, who nevertheless once likened the genre to the Carolina parakeet, a candy-colored chatterbox that's been extinct for more than a century. One gathers he wasn't entirely kidding, which would explain why he seems determined not to let the charms and graces of larksome versifying die out.

Leithauser's latest collaboration with his brother, Mark, an artist and senior curator at the National Gallery of Art, has the retro feel of a cozy fireside picture book, but it's no antiquarian bauble: Arrayed in eight constellations of sprightly lyric sequences, mainly composed in neatly turned octaves and fine-tuned haiku stanzas, the poems brim with an urbane jeu d'esprit that knows the difference between the winsome and the twee, leaving no doubt as to just how much exacting discipline the delectations of sparkling light verse entail. Bracketing the book's mixed bag of impish bagatelles (ranging from "Periodic Riddles" on "Neon" and "Uranium" to a clutch of eldritch nocturnes called "Furnishings of the Moon") is a lively flyting match between the heralded songster and the lowly amphibian of the title, and anyone with a rooting interest in the survival of poetic wit and fancy should find it heartening as well as fitting that the underdog toad gets the last word: "Earth's fairest dreams are born of earth - / Born sometimes, even in the scummy Ooze of a drainage ditch . . . including those / Where I am your ventriloquist, / And you, my dear, my dummy." '

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