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Love and Crush

NY, Persea Books, 1991
Reviewed by 
Collete Inez

“The imperfect is our paradise.” Wallace Stevens wrote, and in a collection of strong and musical poems, Barry Wallenstein takes the lore of human blight in tow, addressing the commonplace hurts of everyday with a nod towards the large disorders of the world. “Love and Crush,” the title poem, is a valentine to this entropy.


Whether Wallenstein’s writing takes a formal or streetwise stance, pivots in surreal dreamscapes, or hunkers down in a downhome conversational mode, he gets the pitch right, no false notes in his symphony of voices…An urban poet, Wallenstein identifies with civic mayhem, yet contends it is driven by the hum “of some hypothetical forward action,” by real life marching with varied cadences towards a seemly destination shaped by hope.


Wild and sensual, and starling in its abrupt turnings, the collection closes in a fitful exchange between a Turkish woman and her American lover. Unfolding through journal entries over two seasons in the city, the story spins with rich metaphors that crackle and sigh with ardor and loss….In his forward to the book, M.L. Rosenthal observes; “there’s a little secret that Barry Wallenstein knows…daily life is surreal, that the wildest imagination wells up casually out of a common experience.”


But certainly, it is no secret that Wallenstein, in his third book of poetry, continues as a writer of originality and intelligence, and is a poet whose paradisiacal notions of imperfect is a paradox to be relished.

Love and Crush

All the life we love

leaves soon to feed

some other life

other love.


Thus the vigilance of the dinner hour:


The inchworm, thriving on leaves,

defoliates at times and is off;

the beetle, the aphid—that crowd—

threaten every berry bush, every fruit tree;

the woodworm, devious,

feels like, looks like

its own meal (crushed pulp)

and the ants all over

swarming by the tree root

will spread out

and draw the eye from the tree.


The centuries brood around the table.

No need to crush or rush

this balanced diet

as we, provender, make our way.

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