Cover image for Cairo traffic
Title:
Cairo traffic
Author:
Schwartz, Lloyd, 1941-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
x, 83 pages ; 23 cm.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780226741925

9780226741932
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library PS3569.C5667 C35 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

In Cairo Traffic , his third book of poems, Lloyd Schwartz asks the Sphinx to explain the riddle "about, you know, / Time and Power and Families-the one you think you / have the answer to. Tell me your answer! / No . . . don't." The search for answers takes the poet to some surprising, often phantasmagoric places, and back again to the self, to dreams, to home, and even to the nursing home where his mother-sphinxlike herself-becomes the person asking the dark questions and providing some unexpected answers. These extraordinary narratives-funny and frightening, seductive and profoundly moving-explore the intersections of character and language, the places where common speech mysteriously transforms itself into poetry. This book, which includes several translations of contemporary Brazilian poems, confirms Schwartz's growing reputation as an intensely compelling and original poet.


Summary

In Cairo Traffic , his third book of poems, Lloyd Schwartz asks the Sphinx to explain the riddle "about, you know, / Time and Power and Families-the one you think you / have the answer to. Tell me your answer! / No . . . don't." The search for answers takes the poet to some surprising, often phantasmagoric places, and back again to the self, to dreams, to home, and even to the nursing home where his mother-sphinxlike herself-becomes the person asking the dark questions and providing some unexpected answers. These extraordinary narratives-funny and frightening, seductive and profoundly moving-explore the intersections of character and language, the places where common speech mysteriously transforms itself into poetry. This book, which includes several translations of contemporary Brazilian poems, confirms Schwartz's growing reputation as an intensely compelling and original poet.


Author Notes

Lloyd Schwartz is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the classical music critic for National Public Radio's Fresh Air and the Boston Phoenix. He is the author of two previous books of poetry, These People and Goodnight, Gracie , and his poems have appeared in the New Yorker , Atlantic Monthly , and The Best American Poetry . In 1994, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.


Lloyd Schwartz is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the classical music critic for National Public Radio's Fresh Air and the Boston Phoenix. He is the author of two previous books of poetry, These People and Goodnight, Gracie , and his poems have appeared in the New Yorker , Atlantic Monthly , and The Best American Poetry . In 1994, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

In the acknowledgments for this book, Schwartz thanks Frank Bidart. This seems appropriate, for many of Schwartz's poems resemble many of Bidart's, with their long lines, prose sections, and other practices that make one question whether this is poetry. Schwartz is prosier and less narrative than Bidart. Several poems concerned with Schwartz's 89-year-old mother's last days and one called "Nostalgia (The Lake at Night)" are composed of single sentences spaced one line apart from each other; only the accumulation of lines turns them into emotional and sensual wholes powerful, concrete, and economical enough to be accounted poems. Similarly, several dreams, a mulling-over of two ancient pornographic postcards, and a 20-page journal in prose and free verse of a trip to Egypt all become poems as they are read. A set of "Proverbs from Purgatory" recalls Blake's proverbs of Hell, though they are wise only accidentally, given their flat-footed folly. At the end, Schwartz has convinced us. This is witty, canny, and vivid poetry. --Ray Olson


Publisher's Weekly Review

In stylized tellings of family (especially an ailing, elderly mother), "Proverbs from Purgatory," "Nostalgia (The Lake at Night)" and other looks back, the poems of Schwartz's third collection adopt a variety of poses that can't quite defamiliarize their familiar subjects. Descriptive third-person accounts, dramatic monologues and dialogues are colloquial and direct, conveying heartfelt moments of memory and loss: "He saved the horses.// I haven't thought about this in a thousand years.// It's like a dream: you get up it's forgotten.// Then it all comes back.// Didn't I ever tell you?// Look at me, I'm starting to cry.// What's there to cry about?// Such an old, old memory, why should it make me cry?" Nearly all of Cairo TrafficÄwhether coming in terse single lines or couplets, blocks of prose, or sentence-length-determined stanzasÄlabors under such nostalgic melodrama, though Schwartz sometimes (as in the lines above) tries to distance himself from it through reportage. Especially disappointing pieces include a slim, contemporary redaction of the Orpheus myth, a superficially Kafka-esque dream in which a mysterious "fat, ugly, dirty" man toys sexually with the speaker in a cathedral, and "Pornography," which offers sentimental insights and leaden double entrendres while describing jazz-age pornographic photographs: "Not quite supine, she strains forward to eye, and/ hold, his bold erection: bat and hardballsÄ/ major league (his Fenway Frank; his juicy/ all-day-sucker)." The book takes its title from the final poem, a long, meandering, mostly prose account of the poet's travels through Israel and Egypt; it also includes translations of two poems about families by Brazilian poets Carlos Drummond de Andrade and Rogerio Zola Santiago. Fans of Schwartz's Goodnight, Gracie, of his Pulitzer Prize-winning classical music commentary for the Boston Phoenix and on NPR's Fresh Air, and of his critical work on Elizabeth Bishop may find interest in these life stories; others will find little on the page to compel them. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Booklist Review

In the acknowledgments for this book, Schwartz thanks Frank Bidart. This seems appropriate, for many of Schwartz's poems resemble many of Bidart's, with their long lines, prose sections, and other practices that make one question whether this is poetry. Schwartz is prosier and less narrative than Bidart. Several poems concerned with Schwartz's 89-year-old mother's last days and one called "Nostalgia (The Lake at Night)" are composed of single sentences spaced one line apart from each other; only the accumulation of lines turns them into emotional and sensual wholes powerful, concrete, and economical enough to be accounted poems. Similarly, several dreams, a mulling-over of two ancient pornographic postcards, and a 20-page journal in prose and free verse of a trip to Egypt all become poems as they are read. A set of "Proverbs from Purgatory" recalls Blake's proverbs of Hell, though they are wise only accidentally, given their flat-footed folly. At the end, Schwartz has convinced us. This is witty, canny, and vivid poetry. --Ray Olson


Publisher's Weekly Review

In stylized tellings of family (especially an ailing, elderly mother), "Proverbs from Purgatory," "Nostalgia (The Lake at Night)" and other looks back, the poems of Schwartz's third collection adopt a variety of poses that can't quite defamiliarize their familiar subjects. Descriptive third-person accounts, dramatic monologues and dialogues are colloquial and direct, conveying heartfelt moments of memory and loss: "He saved the horses.// I haven't thought about this in a thousand years.// It's like a dream: you get up it's forgotten.// Then it all comes back.// Didn't I ever tell you?// Look at me, I'm starting to cry.// What's there to cry about?// Such an old, old memory, why should it make me cry?" Nearly all of Cairo TrafficÄwhether coming in terse single lines or couplets, blocks of prose, or sentence-length-determined stanzasÄlabors under such nostalgic melodrama, though Schwartz sometimes (as in the lines above) tries to distance himself from it through reportage. Especially disappointing pieces include a slim, contemporary redaction of the Orpheus myth, a superficially Kafka-esque dream in which a mysterious "fat, ugly, dirty" man toys sexually with the speaker in a cathedral, and "Pornography," which offers sentimental insights and leaden double entrendres while describing jazz-age pornographic photographs: "Not quite supine, she strains forward to eye, and/ hold, his bold erection: bat and hardballsÄ/ major league (his Fenway Frank; his juicy/ all-day-sucker)." The book takes its title from the final poem, a long, meandering, mostly prose account of the poet's travels through Israel and Egypt; it also includes translations of two poems about families by Brazilian poets Carlos Drummond de Andrade and Rogerio Zola Santiago. Fans of Schwartz's Goodnight, Gracie, of his Pulitzer Prize-winning classical music commentary for the Boston Phoenix and on NPR's Fresh Air, and of his critical work on Elizabeth Bishop may find interest in these life stories; others will find little on the page to compel them. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
A True Poem
Friendly Song (by Carlos Drummond de Andrade)
She Forgets
The Two Horses (A Memory)
He Tells His Mother What He's Working On
From Brazilian Winter (by Rogério Zola Santiago)
Shut-Eye
The Two Churches (A Dream)
Pornography
Proverbs from Purgatory
The Dream During My Mother's Recuperation
No Orpheus
Her Waltz
Nostalgia (The Lake at Night)
Song
Renato's Dream
Cairo Traffic
Acknowledgments
A True Poem
Friendly Song (by Carlos Drummond de Andrade)
She Forgets
The Two Horses (A Memory)
He Tells His Mother What He's Working On
From Brazilian Winter (by Rogério Zola Santiago)
Shut-Eye
The Two Churches (A Dream)
Pornography
Proverbs from Purgatory
The Dream During My Mother's Recuperation
No Orpheus
Her Waltz
Nostalgia (The Lake at Night)
Song
Renato's Dream
Cairo Traffic

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