Bamboo Church, By Ricardo Sternberg New Document..."> <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="inc/styles.css" title="styles"> <style type="text/css"> .darkBox { background: #660099; } .lightBox { background: #6699FF ; } </style> <script language="JavaScript"> <!-- function checkFields(form,errorMessage){ var verify = false; for (var i=0; i < form.length ; i++){ if (form.elements[i].type == "text"){ if (form.elements[i].value != ""){ verify = true; } } } if (!verify){ alert(errorMessage); } return verify; } function sendALink(URL) { fenetre =,"SendLink", "width=400,height=250,scrollbars=no"); onLoad='self.focus()'; } //--> </script> </head> <body bgcolor="white"> <div class="articleSubTitle"> Montreal Review of Books ( </div> <div class="articleFootNote"> Fall 2011<br> Thirty-sixth Issue</a>, Volume 15, No. 1</div> <br> <table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" border="0"> <tr> <td valign="bottom"> <div class="bookInfo"> <b>Bamboo Church</b><br> By Ricardo Sternberg<br> $16.95<br> paper 68 pp. <br>McGill-Queen's University Press 0-7735-2566-1<br> </td> </tr> </table> <br><br> <table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" border="0" width="600"> <tr> <td> <div class="articleTitle"></div> <div class="articleAuthor"> Reviewed by Bert Almon </div> <br> <div class="articleBody"><!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN"> <html> <head> <title> New Document Ricardo Sternberg's poems offer pleasure. His forms are elegant: he loves three- and four-line stanza and even writes a sestina. He is not stiff or banal like some of the contemporary formalists: like the trapeze artist in one of his love poems, he makes the work appear effortless. He's a master of the love lyric. One of the best poems, "Mobius Strip," uses the metaphor of that peculiar ring of paper with a twist to describe the union of lovers in bed. The Mobius strip appears to have two sides yet has only one, a conceit the Metaphysical poets would have loved. He respects tradition without losing his originality. One of his poems, "The Fish," is a rewriting of an Elizabeth Bishop poem of the same name. Another, "Florida Reprieve," is a new take on the singing muse in Wallace Stevens's great poem, "The Idea of Order at Key West." "The Ant," Sternberg's retelling of an Aesop fable, has a wonderful phrase redolent of Stevens to describe the improvident grasshopper: "the jongleur of our meadows."

The extravagance (as in the root meaning, "wandering about") of his imagination is superb without straying into whimsy. He has a poem about an angel who joins the Moscow Circus, and he has written interesting poems about such unusual subjects as quarks or a millionaire who sneaks into heaven disguised as a camel. The Bible is one of his intertextual sources: he writes about the marital breakdown of Noah and his wife, the Tower of Babel, Jonah, and-most interesting of all-the birth of song out of Satan's lament for the fall of Eve. Only once does he miscalculate, with "Thumb," a poem which collects too much lore about that digit from history and science, generating a two-and-a- half page poem which lags quickly. The other poems have the rightness of external form inseparable from internal meanings. As with a Mobius strip, there is no disjunction between inner and outer: by some mystery of geometry a twist makes them into one. Sternberg's imagination makes that maneuver.
Bert Almon's newest book, Hesitation Before Birth, was published by Beach Holme Press.