Revell, Donald 1954-
Revell, Donald 1954-
PERSONAL: Born June 12, 1954, in the Bronx, NY; son of Donald George (a mechanic) and Doris (a secretary; maiden name, Lenhard) Revell; married Astrid A., 1985 (divorced, 1990); married Claudia Keelan (a poet), 1992; children (first marriage) one daughter; (second marriage) Benjamin. Education: State University of New York, Binghamton, B.A., 1975, M.A., 1977; State University of New York, Buffalo, Ph.D., 1980. Religion: Episcopalian.
ADDRESSES: Home—Las Vegas, NV. Office—Department of English, University of Utah, Rm. 3500, Languages and Communications Bldg., 255 S. Central Campus Dr., Salt Lake City, UT 84112. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: University of Tennessee, Knoxville, instructor in English, 1980–82; Ripon College, Ripon, WI, assistant professor, 1982–85; University of Denver, Denver, CO, assistant professor, 1985–88, associate professor, 1988–93, professor of English, 1993–94; University of Utah, Salt Lake City, professor of English, 1994–, director of creative writing.
MEMBER: Modern Language Association of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: Winner of National Poetry Series Open Competition, 1983, for From the Abandoned Cities; Pushcart Prize, 1985; National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, 1988, 1995; Ingram Merrill fellowship, 1990; PEN West Medal in Poetry, 1990; Shestack Prize, 1991; Guggenheim fellowship, 1992; Gertrude Stein Award, 1995.
The Broken Juke, Iris Press (Oak Ridge, TN), 1975.
(Editor and Introduction) A Public and Private Hearth: Selected Poems, Bellevue Press (Bing-hamton, NY), 1978.
From the Abandoned Cities, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1983.
The Gaza of Winter, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1988.
New Dark Ages, Wesleyan University Press (Middle-town, CT), 1991.
Erasures, Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 1992.
Beautiful Shirt, Wesleyan University Press (Middle-town, CT), 1994.
There Are Three: Poems, University Press of New England (Lebanon, NH), 1998.
Arcady: Poems, Wesleyan University Press (Middle-town, CT), 2002.
My Mojave: Poems, Alice James Books (Farmington, ME), 2003.
Pennyweight Windows: New and Selected Poems, Alice James Books (Farmington, ME), 2005.
(Translator) Guillaume Apollinaire, Alcools, Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 1995.
Invisible Green: Selected Prose of Donald Revell, Omnidawn Publishing (Richmond, CA), 2005.
Contributor of poems to journals, including Sonora Review, New England Review, Antaeus, Poetry, Antioch Review, and Crazyhorse. Contributor of articles on contemporary poetry to periodicals, including Western Humanities Review. Editor of Denver Quarterly, 1988–94; poetry editor of Colorado Review, 1996–.
SIDELIGHTS: Poet Donald Revell's collection titled The Gaza of Winter, is told from the point of view of a speaker suffering from great emotional loss and pain. Employing images of contemporary political turbulence in the Middle East, Revell communicates his speaker's individual trauma through collective experience. Revell once explained that he was trying "to find ways to combine private and public experiences, to show how political and social outlook colors private affairs."
In language that is "formal, spare, [and] forceful," Revell manages to avoid the pitfalls of "cliched sorrow," and instead communicates in the voice of one who realizes "the beauty enclosed in his sorrows," wrote Mariann Hofer in Small Press. Characterized by unusual language structure and original adaptation of traditional poetic forms, Revell's collection features manipulated syntax and twists on the sestina, villanelle, and pantoum. "His verse both engages and disengages itself from formal requirements and constraints," wrote Daniel Bosch in the Partisan Review. "One finds language taking splendid chances," observed American Poetry Review critic Marianne Boruch.
Although many critics praised Revell for his innovative use of language, some found the poems difficult to follow at times. "At their most original these poems record uncommon perceptions and strike off sparkling phrases," noted Ben Howard in Poetry. "At their most opaque," he continued, "they leave the patient reader wishing the poet would say what he means." Hofer, however, found that "these aren't tough poems" but rather ones which deserve "to be read slowly in sequence."
Citing the first three poems of Erasures, which are "The Lesson of the Classics, Jeremiah," and "The Massacre of the Innocents," a Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that their titles indicate "the sense of doom that pervades" the collection. The reviewer felt the entries in the second section, which contain alternating lines of poetry and prose, to be the strongest.
Revell wrote the entries in Beautiful Shirt while traveling, "in order to make poems entirely dependent upon immediate physical and verbal circumstances." Consequently, these are poems of ideas rather than emotions, poetry "of often blunt, gnomic statements, but also an abundance of thought and dazzling wordplay," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor. Elizabeth Gunderson noted in Booklist that Revell inserts a narrator into some of the poems, but Gunder-son felt that when "the poem is allowed to stand on its own, Revell's language becomes richer and definitely more delectable."
In reviewing There Are Three: Poems in Poetry, David Wojahn, who considered this collection Revell's best to date, compared the poet's earlier work with his most recent. Wojahn wrote that "what Revell seems to have achieved with There Are Three, is a masterful fusion of his old and new methods; the book is at once stately and edgy, restoring some of the musical fluency of his early work while at the same time continuing to explore the jaggedness and collage-making which have concerned him more recently." Wojahn noted that the death of Revell's father and the birth of his son are reflected in these poems and concluded by calling this collection "the kind which demands rereading."
Revell's collection Arcady: Poems grew from the death of his sister, his only sibling, in 1995. He writes that in mourning, "my native language lapsed. Immediately, I lost my daily care for making poems. It felt fine. Since my words were missing, I couldn't miss a poem." Revell found consolation in the art of Poussin and the writings of Thoreau. Norman Finkelstein wrote in the Chicago Review that he considered Arcady "to be Revell's most beautiful and fully achieved book. Revell goes for broke here: this is a sheerly lyrical collection."
In reviewing My Mojave: Poems, in the Nation, Stephen Burt noted the change in Revell's work over two decades. He noted the "bleak landscapes" of From the Abandoned Cities, the "almost solipsistic dream-scapes" of New Dark Ages, and noted that Erasures and Beautiful Shirt "moved even further from specifics, describing erotic, political and intellectual frustration, and mingling plangency, difficulty and self pity…. There Are Three showed Revell at his most austere." Burt noted that hints of religious faith surface in Arcady, but that as in earlier works, this was a volume about solitude. Burt described the poems of My Mojave as being "expansive, welcoming, easily grasped…. Revell now seeks a poetry appropriate not only to loneliness but to anger and happiness, not only to freighted symbols but to facts, not only to doubt but to faith. What's more, he seems to have found what he seeks."
Pennyweight Windows: New and Selected Poems includes selections from eight books, as well as a few recent poems. A Publishers Weekly critic commented that readers can observe Revell "retain his talent but change his style, and his prevailing temperament, almost beyond recognition." Rochelle Ratner observed in the Library Journal that the poems of this collection "serve almost as a bridge between the classical imagination and modern poetry."
"I grew up in the Bronx," Revell once told CA, "where very little is beautiful. The only lovely thing in my life for quite a while was our church. It was there that I fell in love with words and the possible order of words through the Book of Common Prayer and through the language of hymns. So my primary interest has remained in the ritual and comforting sequence of words in their orders.
"As to subjects, my major concern is with the relation of objects to both memory and consciousness, and how inanimate things animate the world inside of the mind and heart of an individual. My best poems usually begin from my being taught to remember or to feel by the strong, sudden presence of a particular object in a particular place. As to values, I hope my best poems champion and assert the value of things and of individual memory and, most importantly, the value of language to record and celebrate the relationship between interior life and the exterior world."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Poets, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.
American Poetry Review, July, 1988, Marianne Boruch, review of The Gaza of Winter, p. 39.
Booklist, December 15, 1994, Elizabeth Gunderson, review of Beautiful Shirt, p. 732.
Chicago Review, winter, 2002, Norman Finkelstein, review of Arcady: Poems, p. 127.
Harvard Review, December, 2005, William Doreski, review of Pennyweight Windows: New and Selected Poems, p. 246.
Library Journal, February 15, 2003, Louis McKee, review of My Mojave: Poems, p. 142; February 1, 2005, Rochelle Ratner, review of Pennyweight Windows, p. 83.
Literary Review, spring, 1996, Burton Raffel, review of Alcools, p. 447.
Nation, May 12, 2003, Stephen Burt, review of My Mohave, p. 40.
Partisan Review, winter, 1991, Daniel Bosch, review of The Gaza of Winter, p. 166.
Poetry, May, 1989, Ben Howard, review of The Gaza of Winter, p. 109; July, 1999, David Wojahn, review of There Are Three: Poems.
Publishers Weekly, September 7, 1992, review of Erasures, p. 90; November 28, 1994, review of Beautiful Shirt, p. 53; July 31, 1995, review of Alcools, p. 73; February 25, 2002, review of Arcady, p. 58; February 17, 2003, review of My Mojave, p. 71; April 4, 2005, review of Pennyweight Windows, p. 57.
Small Press, December, 1988, Mariann Hofer, review of The Gaza of Winter, p. 46.
Alice James Books Web site, http://www.alicejamesbooks.org/ (February 11, 2006).
Constant Critic, http://www.constantcritic.com/ (August 16, 2003), Joyelle McSweeny, review of My Mojave.
Jacket, http://jacketmagazine.com/ (March 20, 2006), Thomas Fink, review of Arcady.