by Jennifer Doane Upton
The poems in this book make up one of the shortest and most perfectly-finished “life’s-works” of any poet in English. They have all the austerity, compactness and transcendental intent of Emily Dickinson, with a touch of the sensibility of Sylvia Plath, to bring them down into our own era of the ultimate confrontation between the human and the inhuman. Yet this does not tell the whole story. Black Sun is a book of austerity, yes, but an austerity that is inseparable from a profoundly romantic sensibility—an emotional asceticism, simple like that of the traditional English and Scottish ballads, and just as purely destined and inevitable. Romance in its essence pertains to the type, not the individual—the type whose character, as Heraclitus said, is equally her fate. And for the honor and pride of type to be kept, the individual must be abased. The work of these poems is to transmute, by the power of a secret and excruciating alchemy, the inescapable fate of Hell into the eternal destiny of Paradise. The poems of Black Sun testify that if God is possible under conditions such as these, then He is inevitable under all conditions. His Mercy has no limit.