Narcissus Resists is a hybrid text: one long poem divided into fourteen sections spliced with five meditations on Salvador Dali’s 1937 oil painting Metamorphosis of Narcissus. The fourteen section form is inspired by the “corona” or “sonnet of sonnets” as portrayed in Christina Rossetti’s “Monna Innominata” and Lady Mary Wroth’s “A crowne of Sonetts dedicated to Love.” Ovid’s original tale of Echo and Narcissus may be found in Book III of the Metamorphoses, two translations of which proved invaluable to the genesis and composition of this poem: the 2004 Charles Martin translation from which the epigraph comes; and Ted Hughes’ 1997 translation found in his Tales from Ovid. The ghost of T. S. Eliot’s “The Death of Saint Narcissus” also haunts sections of this poem.

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 others’ 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.

— Grady Harp


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