Feldman Irving 1928 Irving Feld

man remains a poet's poet, although much of his work, while thorny, is not beyond the intelligent reader. Influences on him include William Butler Yeats and Rainer Maria Rilke, their solemnity later tempered by Jules Laforgue and Tristan Corbiere ("Conversation"). But Feldman has remained his own poet. The very idea of a school of poetry is "repugnant" to him, he explains, and as the diversity of his work shows, he finds it difficult even "to join himself" ("Conversation"). His earlier work is delicately lyrical, as exemplified by the metaphysical poem "X" (1972), but the later work has a rugged thoughtfulness. Feldman can write about anything: a quarrel, baseball, smoking cigarettes, Nazi atrocities. All of his work, as he puts it in Teach Me, Dear Sister (1983) is "required, requested, rich / in society, in obligations." The poet stands apart to observe, but is still bound—uncomfortably, fretfully—by myriad ties to the rest of life.

Feldman was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a working-class Jewish family. He began teaching at the State University of New York, Buffalo, in 1964. Among his most important works are New and Selected Poems (1979), The Life and Letters (1994), and Beautiful Dead Things (2000). He was twice nominated for a National Book Award.

The titles of Feldman's poems—"Assimilation," "The Nurses," "Family History," "Geneologies," "The Human Circle" and of his books Teach Me, Dear Sister (1983) and All of Us Here (1986)—point to this poet's insistence on the primary importance of human relations in his work. Many of these poems derive their significant metaphors from our exchanges, inventions, interactions, as well as from our dramas and their consequences. In "The Heir" (1979), for example, a bereaved son is trying to replace his own heart with that of his dead father; he struggles with the corpse that "sits up and shouts at him 'You idiot / do you know how to do anything right?'" The painful conversation continues with the son accepting his "father's dead heart, commonplace, appalling," while the father's "misery and maiming / return in the son's chest to their brutal beating." Many of the poems in Beautiful Dead Things, "Bad Brunch," for example, describe the perimeters of malefemale relations.

The fine collection All of Us Here, as its title indicates, reveals the same insistence on the primary importance of man relating to man, to woman, woman to child, each to each. In "They Say to Us" (1986), a family is looking at a stack of photographs, "the living and the dead who mingle here / as nowhere else." To Feldman, "This ritual is profound, / solemn, reli-gious—'those who participate feel themselves' weighty" and are "judicious, like gods." In his work Feldman "continually engages the problems of the human condition" (Schweizer 42).

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