Alan V. Goldman’s Reflections on Mountaineering is a collection of poems contemplating his many mountaineering experiences and the sense of awe, aliveness and human mortality they inspire.
The book is comprised of 80 narrative poems (36 new poems in this edition) arranged in 14 sections, with subtitles such as “Awe and Wonder,” “Hazards of a Climb,” and “Confronting Fear.” The collection is what is often referred to in contemporary publishing as a “project book”: with an explicit subject (mountain climbing, in this case) that unifies the work as a whole. The writing is a mix of rhyming and free verse, lineated and prose poems, and each section is introduced with the same, computer-generated image of mountains and trees.
Goldman’s passion for and knowledge of mountain climbing comes through in every poem. “A Complicated Relationship Bathed in Wonder” typifies his structure and style. The title echoes the book’s thesis and its speaker’s enduring credo: “Mountain, mountain, there you be:/ Your eternal presence always pursuing me.// It perplexes me that I’m alive, and thus so mortal/ While you are utterly inanimate, but are and will be extant/ For indeterminate millennia…”
Goldman’s vocabulary is sophisticated, but his diction leans toward the discursive rather than the imagistic; the speaker tells readers about mountains, mortality, the natural world and the human condition, without showing them. He consistently chooses abstract and elevated language rather than delivering rich, sensory details and memorable metaphors. For instance, at one point, he writes: “Gripped by summit fever, many felt a boundless elation that was/ No different from what I had experienced out on a jutting ledge of the promontory.” Readers hear much about the joys and perils of mountain climbing without vicariously experiencing the process themselves.
While this collection lacks the lyrical prosody and luminous particulars of literary poetry, the subject matter is promising, and the book is likely to be enjoyed by the author’s friends, family, and members of the mountaineering community.
Also available in hardcover, ebook and audio book.