In his Afterword to this finely honed and memorable collection, written over some 40 years' time, Hazard Adams characterizes these poems as "those I am willing to stand by." He has chosen well.
This is a radiant volume, rich with imagery and enlivened with a wry and witty sensibility, its five parts charged with the sweep of a small drama.
These are poems that wear well and welcome repeated reading.
They are a pleasure to read aloud. Adams opens with a series of strong, spare, bittersweet elegies to his parents and grandparents and to his own rural beginnings as he wrestles with the shifting roles of child and man, actor and observer.
He ranges over many subjects and themes, through the bemused "Nine Academic Pieces" of the late 1960s and the marvelously absurdist "Rhinoceros Who Became Dean," through the insightful perspective of times abroad and at home, through such deeply moving and contemplative pieces as his elegy on the death of a small child.
He is a persuasive and versatile master of the poetic line, moving with skill between deftly rhythmical free verse and trenchantly epigrammatic observations, to the lyrical sonnet whose grace notes conclude the book.