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The Last Nostalgia: Poems, 1982-1990by Joe Bolton
This is a collection of the work of a poet who committed suicide at twenty-eight, posthumously edited by his mentor Donald Justice. Loss marks these poems:
Still, in the soft metallic resonance of twilight, The closest thing you have left to a soul Is the smoke from your cigarette drifting out the window Of a hotel room, number nine, and what little You can remember of the little love you made.
Written in form (most notably the sonnet) and controlled free verse, the poems are relentlessly elegiac and devastating. But mere pathos doesn't shape this collection. Bolton's sense of place, that of the contemporary American South, particularly Bolton's native Kentucky, locates readers in a landscape of "blue winter dusk," "small-town basements and garages," and "endless Nashvilles, / A jambalaya of women, whiskey, and pills." Primarily lyric, his poems are also filled with the presence and voices of others: the boys of Dexter, Kentucky, a group of insurance men breakfasting at a diner, a retired pilot walking his dog Boofy, Hank Williams, JFK, a sixteenth-century Spanish chaplain, and a "Bored Cop Leaning against Abstract Sculpture on Plaza Below Skyscraper." There is much to rave about in these poems. A meager review doesn't do them justice.
Synopses & Reviews
Joe Bolton studied universal connections—the tension between the transitory beauty of the physical world and a yearning for the eternal. He turned his eye to the world, to the cultures and the people around him, and saw reflections of himself. In this collection, he works in both free verse and traditional forms, rendering scenes of exquisite detail that pry into the hearts of his characters and reveal the contradictions that bind father to son, lover to lover, and person to person. From the broken hills and drowsy river valleys around Paducah, Kentucky, to Houston diners and Gulf Coast shrimp boats, to the tropical cityscape of Miami, Bolton creates vivid scenes in which his characters confront the loneliness and the "little music" of their lives. With a richly musical voice and an ear for the cadences of everyday speech, Bolton gives his readers not the trappings of love and grief, but the very things themselves, rendered in lines that reverberate with the authority of sincerity and truth.
About the Author
Joe Bolton was born in Cadiz, Kentucky, in 1961 and received an M.F.A. from the University of Arizona. He taught at both the University of Arizona and the University of Florida at Gainesville. His work appeared in numerous magazines, and he published two collections of poetry, Breckinridge County Suite (The Cummington Press, 1987) and Days of Summer Gone (Galileo Press, 1990). Mr. Bolton took his own life in March 1990 at the age of twenty-eight.
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