Finding music and meaning in daily life; The Morning of the Poem, by James Schuyler. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $10.95.
Poet James Schuyler finds the risk of time -- of mortality -- too awesome and dangerous to tolerate with conventional resignation. New ways must be found to make the present a potent realization, even while allowing each moment to slip naturally away.
Yet for Schuyler the lure of tradition is strong; the desire for a compassionate divine spirit, for reasoned wisdom, for ultimate salvation within an orthodox framework brings a difficult but valuable tension to his poems.
His poems are movingly straightforward. Their themes revolve around the events of the day -- watching the weather, meeting a friend, confronting regrets and losses, sleeping, waking, dreaming. These themes are reassuring precisely because they are the essentials of any given day; they gain depth and beauty from Schuyler's clear appreciation of their importance.
The events that Schuyler records are not frozen in amber; they are not meant to be taken out of time, to be rearranged in a way that implies to ultimate powerlessness of change. Schulyer's technique -- particularly in the long title poem of the collection -- is to connect events and thoughts in an easy progression, capturing the continuous flow of life while exalting discrete moments: . . . today is a year, a morning, this Morning was a year, I got up at six? six-thirty? on the grass there lay one Streak of morning light: the days and their different lights: when I Was a child in Washington they took me to the theater . . . and when the curtain went up on the second Act my breath caught: it was the light: I'd seen that light before in Chevy Chase: an empty living room with chintz: An old theatrical effect: then someone entered: left, right, center? Who Cares? It wasn't the play I liked -- too young to know what it was All about -- it was the magic of the rising of the curtain and the slanting In of dusty golden autumn light.