Oyster Boy Review 19  
  Fall 2010
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Dabney Stuart's The Man Who Loves Cezanne

Cy Dillon

Dabney Stuart's The Man Who Loves Cezanne
  The Man Who Loves Cezanne.
Dabney Stuart.
Louisiana State University Press, 2003.
62 pages, $15.95 (paperback).
ISBN: 0807129003.

Back in 2001, Dabney Stuart told me he expected this to be his last book of poems. While I hope he changes his mind, it must be admitted that this collection is a fitting testament to a writer who has focused relentless energy on creating and teaching poetry for over forty years. While perhaps not as powerful a collection as Settlers (1999), the thirty-three poems confront questions of memory, family relationships, aging, and the role of the writer with Stuart's absolute control of language and image. Witness "Light Touch,"

Go ahead, touch it. It will give you
the music of blood, too,
in a dull or vanishing abrasion,
or a little welling on the fingertip.

From the playful mood of "Here, Promising," a poetic catalog of his books, and "Free Will," a surreal take on Shakespeare from one who has read and taught his works for decades, to the dead serious imagism of "A Shadow They Cast," the break-neck pace of "Sky Dive," and the elegant visual manipulation of the title poem, Stuart never misses. The lessons for aspiring writers are many—some obvious, some subtle. Everything is carefully crafted, including the order in which the poems are presented, so that the adept reader is always aware of the author's skill just beneath the surface. Stuart's ability to inject a redeeming, delicate sense of distance guarantees that he can turn on a dime from humor and word play to a willingness to look directly at the most difficult truths. Nevertheless, there is ample wit but no arrogance. As Stuart says in "High Desert Snow,"

This is an instance of the imagination
seeking what might suffice, knowing
in time nothing does . . .