The poems in The Starry Messenger explore the many facets of Galileo Galilei’s life and times–his troubled childhood, his appetites and love affairs, his early scientific discoveries, his famed exploration of the heavens, his house arrest, his blindness. Emphasizing Galileo’s independent nature and his affection for his mistress and daughter, George Keithley provides one of the most personal portraits of the astronomer ever written. In the process, he depicts the sensuous world of religion, magic, and science that was seventheenth-century Florence, Padua, Venice, Ostia, and Rome.
A truly remarkable, and moving, series of poems.
Stubborn, irascible, truth-obsessed, Galileo is a living presence, his Venice teeming with Carnevale, fearful of the Inquisition, vividly realized in The Starry Messenger.
Keithley's talent is remarkable; he seems to possess Whitman's visionary imagination, that rare ability to evoke powerful, scaled-down, lyric details in the service of a vast structure.
Accessible, superbly crafted, this is Keithley at his best.
So moving and precise is Keithley's depicition of the life-loving Galileo and his enemies' death-dealing tools that the ending becomes inevitable if no less tragic.
[Keithley] displays his powers of spare yet arresting narrative in his new long sequence about Galileo. . . . a captivating poem woven of poems.
The success of the project as a whole is augmented by the richness of the individual poems which delight us with their moments of aesthetic pleasure and intriguing variety of form. . . . Evocative and riveting . . . satisfyingly sophisticated. . . These poems are by turn harsh, beautiful, funny and tragic. Keithley succeeds in casting spells that take us from the marvels of the Carnivale to the dungeons of the Inquisition. A rich and rewarding collection with a poetic voice that is artful, mature, inventure and sure.
Keithley's poems . . . need no revision, existing as perfect, self-contained and self-sustaining worlds. . . . [Keithley] reminds us of the wonder that is contained and reflected in the ordinary, of the poetry that is inherent in history, of how 'Heaven and earth off all / the cargo a man desires.'