Book Review: Imperfect Pastorals by Gail Wronsky

Imperfect Pastorals

Imperfect Pastorals by Gail Wronsky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Imperfect Pastorals was the most fortuitous find for me this Spring. I am in the midst of writing my thesis on the reception of Vergil’s pastoral poetry in contemporary pastoral poetry, and after copious amounts of research and digging in places beyond the scope of my field, I came across Gail Wronsky’s wonderful collection. I have read this collection through the perspective of my thesis, and enjoyed wonderfully how Wronsky referenced Vergilian themes within the theme of pastoral, such as liminality (of life and death represented by both nature and through myths like that of Orpheus), man vs. nature, Lucretian philosophy, and of course Vergil’s famous bees.

All of the poems are in un-rhyming verse, and yet Wronsky has structured the poems to be read at a certain rhythm. Though there is no meter as Vergil puts in his works, Wronsky divides stanzas to be each read alone or with the others, employs internal rhyme where it fits, and uses other poetic structures that make the poems flow or jump to representations of nature.

Aside from the classical references, there are mentions of pastoral in the context of Wronsky’s own pastoral landscape of Topanga Canyon, CA (also right in my own hometown), designating her as a Los Angeles poet writing particularly Los Angeles idylls. It is a genre of pastoral all its own, evoking, at least to myself, paintings of Los Angeles by artists such as David Hockney.

I recommend this collection to those who find meaning in the connection, or even disconnection to nature, and its philosophy; and to those who are, like myself, fascinated with the Vergilian and non-Vergilian ideas of myth in pastoral.

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