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The heart of this book is a sequence of sonnetlike love poems--no, call them true sonnets. For if they do not conform to the prescribed rules, they certainly come from the same lyrical conception that made the sonnet in the first place, and it is long past time to liberate the old term from its trammeling codes of technique. Here is one from the sequence:

[Carruth quotes No. 11 from "Twenty-One Love poems"]

It is an outstanding poem but typical as well of Rich's way of writing: the genuinely literate sentences woven into genuinely poetic measures, cadences, and patterns of sound; the easy, perfectly assimilated classical allusion; the sense of immediate, unique experience; the details--here the female mountain and flower--turned into generalized insights of humane value. These are the resonances we find in all the poems. A mind is here, a loving mind, in and of this world, including all this world's cultural inheritance, yet still asserting, firmly and calmly, its own independence and newness.


From Harper’s (1978).