Clairvoyant Organist: a review of Trish Hampl’s First Book of Poems

One of the best literary magazines of the early 1970s was LAMP IN THE SPINE, edited by Jim Moore and Trish Hampl. Both Moore and Hampl had attended the University of Iowa workshop, after which they moved back to their hometown of the Twin Cities and settled in for the duration. (Moore first distinguished himself by being one of the few poets of his generation to resist the draft and serve a term in prison.) Their magazine ran for nine issues and made a point of being interested in poems that differed from the workshop model that would be valorized in Daniel Halpern’s mid-decade anthology. Both Moore and Hampl had first books of poems published by the University of Pittsburgh Press, and I wrote reviews of both books. My review of Jim Moore’s book of poem, THE NEW BODY, was published in Beyond Baroque’s magazine, but my long review of Trish Hampl’s first book of poems never got published. Trish moved on to become primarily known as a non-fiction author who won a Guggenheim Award and the MacArthur (“Genius”) Foundation grant, as well as two NEA Creative Writing Fellowships. Her lapidary prose still shows her original grounding in quietly lyrical, meditative language. Here is a partial list of her books:

I Could Tell You Stories: Soujourns in the Land of Memory (Norton)
Spillville. Hampl, Patricia, Milkweed Editions, 1987.
Resort and Other Poems. Hampl, Patricia, Houghton Mifflin, 1983.
A Romantic Education. Hampl, Patricia, Houghton Mifflin, 1981.
Woman Before an Aquarium. Hampl, Patricia, University of Pittsburph Press, 1978.
Burning Bright, anthology of sacred poetry (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). Ed. Patricia Hampl. Ballantine, 1995.
Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime. Hampl, Patricia, Harcourt, Author, 2006.
Virgin Time. Hampl, Patricia, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1992.

In going through my archives a few years ago, I found a long-lost version of a review of WOMAN BEFORE AN AQUARIUM that I had keyboarded on a Compugraphic 7500 typesetting machine one evening when I stayed late after work at Radio & Records. I hope at least a few readers will not only go to their libraries and read her first book of poems, but will also dig into some of her other books. According to World Cat, by the way, over three hundred libraries have a copy of WOMAN BEFORE AN AQUARIUM.


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