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Obscenities (1972): Time Is Short

Michael Casey, Obscenities (Yale, 1972)

[originally posted 11Jun2001]

The cover contains the title and an excerpt from the book.

Pure and simple.
photo credit: bookdepository.com

Casey, the 1972 winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets award (judged and introduced by Stanley Kunitz) offers up what Kunitz believes is the first artistic comment on the Vietnam War. Solely on that merit, the book demands close scrutiny. Casey reads like a kind of odd cross between Mark Twain and T. S. Eliot, in that his spare lines encompass the many dialects across which he ran during his time in-country. Eventually, though, the mind and the ear both tire of the unending stream of dialect and wish for one of the very few poems here (I recall two) in which Casey reverts to non-dialect-spelling English and flashes the ability to put words together that so obviously impressed Kunitz:

Her back is arched
Like something’s under it
That’s why I thought
It was booby-trapped
But it’s not
It just must have been
Over this rock here
And somebody moved it…

Casey, like most of the Yale Series, definitely had some raw talent, and it would have been interesting to see what became of him. Unfortunately, also like many of the Yale Series, it looks as if Casey may never have published another book. ** ½

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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