Poet's Choice

By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, February 3, 2008

Campbell McGrath's new book, Seven Notebooks, lives up to its title: The seven sections, whose contents are often dated like journal entries, make seven accounts of days and thoughts, wildly various. The first section includes "Ode to Bureaucrats" and "Ode to Blueberries" as well as the opening "Ode to Inspiration."

McGrath's audacity has a genial, sociable quality, often with a flippancy that he directs back at himself, in the American tradition of kidding, a humor that may tease greatness but makes the joke on itself. For example, "Rilke and God":

When Rilke talks about God I have no idea

what to say. It's like being buttonholed at a party

by someone who wrongly assumes you share

the urgency of their political convictions,

their devotion to a cause and its glorious leader,

a man of catastrophically dangerous power.

Time to fill your drink, grab some salted almonds.

But then he talks about art in the same voice,

and I come to see that to him they are one

and the same, aspects of an indivisible fire,

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