Strung throughout the book are poems based on the Scottish photographer Eadwaerd Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion, a historic photographic document. Pettit uses these pioneering images as the basis for his poetic dreaming, and the result is a poignant, integrated sequence of highly moving poems, studded between other vivid lyrics.
Combining incisive observation with vivid imagery, Pettit ( American Light ) builds this volume, winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize, around the leitmotif of flight, both actual and symbolic. He explores the soarings of birds, angels, planes; even the music of ``Mighty Sebastian Bach'' effects flight and transcendence: ``What anchors / our bodies are. / So you bless the A Minor / solo for flute and the flutist, / a woman so clearly taken by the lilting / line of Bach she follows completely, / her slim arms ascending, peaking / . . . seeking / release, a way into the cool blue skies . . . . '' Those poems not directly concerned with flight focus on motionphysical, spiritual or emotionalas a metaphor for the human condition, which Pettit views as being in a constant state of flux. And interspersed throughout is a series of verse based on the Scottish photographer Eadweard Muybridge's Animal Locomotion: in a delightful flight of fancy, Pettit theorizes about the experiences and thoughts of the models. Although some of the poet's work lacks a sense of urgency, it is always well-crafted, moving and highly imaginative.