June 4, 2009

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The Seven Deadly Sins and Other Poems, by David R. Slavitt, Louisiana State University, 2009, 69 pages
Used to be, all poets were considered classical poets. Now, in the age of coffee house slams and erasure poetry, classicists like David R. Slavitt aren’t getting much attention. It’s a shame. The Seven Deadly Sins is another solid collection from a veteran poet who has nearly a hundred books under his belt. And anyway, it’s a little unfair to group Slavitt as a purely a classicist. Sure, he includes a batch of perplexing translations, but the meat of the new collection is as witty and clever as the work of any young poet writing today.

Slavitt’s strength is his ability to transform simple or mundane tasks into life-exploring situations: a head cold becomes a consciousness-transforming experience, for example. In the title poem, each of the seven deadly sins has a voice and argues for its own worth.

Don’t fear poets like Slavitt because you see foreign words or mentions of Greek gods. In The Seven Deadly Sins, Slavitt has produced a comfortable collection of insightful poems that are accessible and have something to say. BDan Szczesny