Lost and found

It’s surprising that the magnitude of those gifted poets lost to AIDS can still shock; it’s also a good thing, if it means we never forget the missing generation of artists who died too young. Persistent Voices: Poetry by Writers Lost to AIDS contains the famous: James Merrill, Paul Monette, Essex Hemphill, Tory Dent, Reginald Shepherd. But what stands out in this volume is the work of the lesser-known poets, many of whom died in the first wave of AIDS deaths and so never reached the productive middle-aged years. For example, these lines from “Between Us,” by David Matias, who died at 35: “You are older, I am ill, and we want / someone to hold at night. We want a history. // Tree blossoms might also fall in a puddle of rain, / keeping them afloat, alive much longer.” This anthology from Alyson Books doesn’t make up for the loss—nothing can—but makes it easier to bear.