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The Border Kingdomby D. Nurkse
Synopses & Reviews
In a collection of urgent and intimate poems, D. Nurkse explores the biblical past and the terrifying politics of the present with which it resonates, the legacy of fathers and the flawed kingdoms they leave their sons.
In “Ben Adan,” a stunning poem in the opening sequence of the collection, we witness the stirring drama between a captor and the prisoner commanded to dig his own grave (“perhaps in a moment / he will lift me up / and hold me trembling, / more scared than I / and more relieved”). “After a Bombing” examines childrens drawings as deep symbolic reactions to 9/11. The subtly majestic “Lament for the Makers of Brooklyn” builds the poignant case for a lost world: “Where is Policastro the locksmith now?” the poet asks. “Half-blind, he wore two pairs of glasses / held together by duct tape, / . . . / afterward the key turned / for you but not for me.”
A poet of unique force and sensitivity, Nurkse refuses to pass over the marginal characters and corners of the world, attuned to the scraps of beauty or insight they might offer up in the midst of moral darkness. In The Border Kingdom he has given us an exceptionally powerful collection of poems—unfailingly rich in imagery, undaunted in subject and spirit.
Sometimes in a high window
a white curtain knotted against itself
gives a glimpse of the lovers
as they were before the war:
with great concentration and silence
they undo a mother-of-pearl snap
while a cat perched on the sill
looks down with burning eyes.
"Nurkse's ninth book takes its title from the Latin origin of limbo (limbus, hem or border). As the 'second kingdom' (after Heaven), it edges on paradise; in Nurkse's hands, limbo is obsessed with various borders — dusk, dawn, border towns, a fall out shelter. A group of 9/11 poems reveals a devastating divide between before and after, as horrors are captured in lovely, if prose-like, descriptions: 'We filled the streets,/ squinting upward, shading our eyes,/ searching for the towers,/ or more planes, or rescue choppers,/ and a great silence built....' The first section contains biblical persona poems. In the more directly personal poems in the next two sections — 'The Limbo of the Fathers' and 'The Limbo of the Children' — Nurkse, also a writer on human rights issues, truly plumbs the depths of his muse. In beautiful, effortless lines, Nurkse discusses family, love, sex and children. In 'Return to Underhill Road,' he employs his most affecting language to describe an ordinary family, in an ordinary home, experiencing something universal and timeless: 'the child in the next room/ swathed in her crib/ makes every sign in every alphabet/ and sings every sound in every language/ until it will become a story — // two rooms, one marriage, / this trance, happiness.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
D. Nurkse is the author of eight previous books of poetry. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Whiting Writers Award, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, two grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, a Tanne Foundation award, and two awards from Poetry magazine. He has also written widely on human rights. He teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Brooklyn.
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