Issue 56 |

rev. of Don't Think: Look by William Corbett


Through over twenty years of publication, William Corbett's books have steadily and thoroughly documented a life examined through art, offering a series of poems which, as the poet explains in
Don't Think: Look, "enable the feeling eye to enact in words what it has seen." What's seen is rarely spectacle; rather, Corbett pursues the illuminating capabilities of the quotidian. In "The Examining Room," even a cheap Van Gogh print reveals "every stroke obvious as counting"; the radio's "Mr. Blue" whelms with memory: "I left Mary blue / . . . / and can't forgive / irresistibly pushing away / Mary I kissed, swore I loved." Corbett calls poetry "servant of memory," and the particulars so deftly observed in
Don't Think: Look make a life and its manner of mind come alive as they render countryside and cityscape in detail reminiscent of Chinese poems translated by Rexroth and Pound.

"Seeing is only / half done done alone," Corbett writes in "San Sanon," and the reader becomes the poet's intimate, a partner in discovering the nuance of goldenrod grown to dusty pink, or in hearing a neighbor describe his dead wife's face. But it would be a mistake to categorize Corbett as all eye; as he writes in the informative paragraphs on the book's back cover (serving the reader far better than the typical blurb), "without a guiding ear the eye drifts and images smudge." Corbett secures his poems with repetition and variation of a standard two- and three-beat line, with effective enjambment, and with considerable assonance. The long
o of longing in "Home" appears in rhyme and slant rhyme as irregular and natural as the knock of a stone tossed down a well.
Don't Think: Look is a watershed in William Corbett's impressive career.       --
Joyce Peseroff