Grady Harp Reviews Narcissus Resists

Grady Harp, an Amazon Top 10 Reviewer, was kind enough to review Narcissus Resists.

Here is the full review:

“Matthew Hittinger and Further Discoveries in Language and Art”

Matthew Hittinger in this his second book of poetry (see Pear Slip) seems content to focus on a single thought or idea or object or myth or mood and explore it so fully that the reader of his collections of artfully graceful poems feels invited to become more visually and emotionally and verbally receptive to the many facets of the world that surrounds us, a world too frequently lost in the busy-ness of life as we lead it.

The very title of this brief but magical collection – Narcissus Resists – suggests more than the initial response indicates. In this collection of fourteen ‘sections’ of one long poem about the mythical Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection in the water, Hittinger provides five breathing spaces (“Metamorphosis of Narcissus I – V” apparently meditations on Salvador Dali’s 1937 oil painting Metamorphosis of Narcissus) in the manner that visual artists use jade or resin resists to coat a surface with a substance that protects certain areas of a work from holding pigment or image, a delicate technique that results in seemingly multiple layers of visual information. OR the poet may simply be offering us fourteen manners in which the narcissist hero approaches verges of temptation and seduction and encounters with the strange new world of now so different from the world and time of Narcissus’ origin and time.

Hittinger opens his collection with questions: ‘Am I the favor seeker, or the favor sought? Why seek at all, when all that I desire is mine already?’ He then weaves this confident muse through challenges to his ownership of beauty – in movie houses, clubs, websites, brawls and wonderful plays on words and ideas from mythology. In ‘Clubbing’ our hero of sorts experiences ‘…A quiet/ night at the Inn, the air clear, prismatic,/ dance floor empty save for a reflection/ caught in a mirror. His eye knew beauty,/ knew his body but not his body, the face/ that lasts as long as one spun lozenge.’ Or in ‘Cover Story’, ‘Water cut a deal with the tabloids:/ catch those cheekbones, parted lips,/ the ice blue star in each eye, a simple/ first assignment. Narcissus never/ showed, so Water froze a faux snap-/ shot, afraid of editorial wrath.’

Exactly what Matthew Hittinger intends with this multilayered and timeless survey of Narcissus may elude us all. But what does pour out of these pages is poetry of biting satire of our preoccupation with surface beauty or self or delusions of other’s perception. And beneath the graceful humor and multiple layers of meaning lies the secure ‘verbal resist’ of an eloquent poet’s mastery of his medium. Hittinger grows in importance with each new publication of his work. Highly recommended.

-Grady Harp, February ’09

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