Stuart Bartow’s poems are a proper antidote to two polarities in American poetry, vapidity and pretension. Squashed between those polarities, the spirit of inquiry goes begging, but not in Bartow’s work. He connects the dots. He does not come across as contemptuous of the butterfly effect, as does the American press in its adamant refusal to connect the dots—a refusal shared by many poets, perhaps in the misguided conviction that it contradicts modernist ideas about poetry.
When the American press called George W. Bush incurious it might well have been talking about itself and a large body of our poetry, which prefers to play it safe, keep it light, and by all means spurn the rhapsodic.
The sonnet is in some ways a form of self-discipline, a way of accustoming oneself to thinking concisely. There is something in its fourteen-line structure that requires you to organize your thoughts into a kind of algorithm that then helps you address enigmas, whether in your daily rounds or in your poetry. Stuart Bartow’s nonce sonnets , published here in Arabesques for the first time, reveal his rigor as a poet and as a seeker after elixirs for the elements of his experiences. Succinctness is not merely about saying something well and sharply, it’s about going to the quick: it’s about quickness.
The poems in Einstein’s Lawn are varied. Some of them are prose poems. There are couplets, metered stanzas, rhymed stanzas, and concrete poems. Because he is writing about Albert Einstein and physics, he has taken care to provide notes lest we’re unfamiliar with the God particle, Glaucus or Absolute Zero.