Southern California is one of two significant places in Laurence Goldstein's fourth collection of poems. A native of Los Angeles, the author re-encounters the vivid ghosts of an exotic personal landscape: Criswell the TV prophet, Madame Nhu at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Mickey Cohen in a downtown deli, Bob Hope in a photo shoot with the poet's family. From the Pacific boardwalk to Death Valley, these poems enliven their borderlands with pungent language and dramatic incident. Goldstein then takes the reader to Ethiopia, the setting of a long dramatic monologue narrated by a young American woman seeking the reincarnation of the medieval Christian potentate Prester John, for help in the apocalyptic wars of the twenty-first century. His most ambitious book to date, the subjects in this collection range from the aging pear tree and the domestic living room, to Nordic witches and Nazi demons. Some poems are in fixed forms including the villanelle ""Rock Star,"" the sonnet translation from Verlaine, ""Langueur,"" and the rhymed quatrains of a narrative poem adapted from a short story by Arthur Miller. Other poems employ organic style to explore the poet's situation, or predicament, in the culture he has outlived and the culture he has inherited.
Laurence Goldstein is professor of English at the University of Michigan. He is the author of numerous books of literary and cultural criticism, as well as three books of poetry, most recently Cold Reading (Copper Beech Press, 1995). He has been the editor of Michigan Quarterly Review since 1977.