From an “Introduction” to Barry Goldensohn at a 1999 Public Reading he delivered at Skidmore College


Robert Boyers

Barry’s poems are often playfully allusive, alternately philosophical, plaintive, brusque or witty. In some of his poems we hear the under-voice of a rich music, but more typically his is a hard-bitten idiom that sharply reflects the complication and intensity of his thought. Though he is not much given to wearing the gaudier sentiments on his sleeve, he is yet a poet of emotion, by turns tender and severe, susceptible to nostalgia and unforgiving dispassion. The devices he employs, such as they are, are casually accommodated, as if nothing could seem to this poet more natural, more like an odd piece of clothing thrown on and as easily discarded. Often confiding, even confessional, he is nonetheless alert to the falsity and self-deception that come with what he calls “loose talk” and “theatrical emotion.” Honoring the formal imperatives demanded by the dominant aesthetic of high modernism, he honors as well the messy origins of a living poem. He wants his poems to seem self-sufficient, sovereign, but also to imply the irrelevances that acted upon their making. The best of his poems move elegantly on the brink of untidiness. He gives us a poise that is wonderful because it is unstable, a sense of focus that holds us because it threatens to slip away or wander off. We admire in his work the marks of a restless and capacious intelligence. His singularity lies, to a considerable degree, in the several contrary qualities he accommodates, in the sly ways he finds to riddle and unlock the heart.

—Robert Boyers