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Never-Ending Birdsby David Baker
Synopses & Reviews
A magnificent new collection from National Book Award finalist and Kingsley Tufts Award winner Linda Gregerson
In eloquent poems about Ariadne, Theseus, and Dido, the death of a father, a bombing raid in Lebanon, and in a magnificent series detailing Masaccios Brancacci frescoes, The Selvage deftly traces the “line between” the “wonder and woe” of human experience. Keenly attuned to the precariousness of our existence in a fractured world—of “how little the world will spare us”—Gregerson explores the cruelty of human and political violence, such as the recent island massacre in Norway and “the current nightmare” of war and terrorism. And yet, running as a “counterpoint” to violence and cruelty is “The reigning brilliance / of the genome and / the risen moon . . . ,” “The / arachnids exoskeleton. The kestrels eye.” The Selvage is the boldest evidence yet that Linda Gregersons unique combination of dramatic lyricism and fierce intelligence transcends current fashions to claim an enduring place in American poetry.
"Well observed, careful and shot through with sadness, this eighth set of poems from Ohio resident Baker (Midwest Eclogue) is his best: syllabic stanzas, occasional rhyme, and short, clear looks at nature frame a life that almost came apart in middle age: we read of the poet's days with his young daughter, and of what appears to be his recent divorce. 'When a lark flies/ up, I know its name,' writes Baker — it is no boast: he returns over and over to the natural history of the Midwest, its meadows and exurbs, where 'Hummer' means both a tiny bird and a gargantuan vehicle. Baker's daughter's childhood, his own teen years, middle age and approaching death get attention from his exacting eye. And as he looks hard at animals, they look back at him: he sees, in a poem about Virgil, how 'the oval eyes/ of goats and sheep/ turn rounder as the day/ goes down.' Like Marianne Moore and Amy Clampitt, this poet likes to borrow from earlier texts: swaths of quotations from 17th-century prose can overwhelm his quiet verse. Yet most of the time Baker's terms remain his own: 'To see each thing clear/ is still not to see// a thing apart from/ words or our wild need.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The most expansive and moving poet to come out of the American Midwest since James Wright."--Marilyn Hacker
The poems in Selvage, Linda Gregersons first collection since her Kingsley Tufts Award winning Magnetic North, allude to Milton, to the great myths of Ariadne, Theseus, and Dido, and include a magnificent series detailing Masaccios frescoes about the life of Saint Peter.
Part map, part travelogue, part chronicle, part autobiography, Never-Ending Birds explores a variety of landscapes from Midwestern villages to the boroughs of big cities. Steeped in story--divorce, loss, raising a child, uncovering old worlds and new loves--these poems are gracefully lived in, lived through, with mystery and beauty.
from "Never-Ending Birds":
That's us pointing to the clouds. Those are clouds
of birds, now we see, one whole cloud of birds.
There we are, pointing out the car windows.
October. Gray-blue-white olio of birds.
Never-ending birds, you called the first time--
years we say it, the three of us, any
two of us, one of those just endearments.
Apt clarities. Kiss on the lips of hope.
About the Author
David Baker, the author of several volumes of poetry and criticism, is a professor at Denison University and the poetry editor of The Kenyon Review. He lives in Granville, Ohio.
Table of Contents
The Selvage 1
Pajama Quotient 4
Slight Tremor 7
Slaters Measure 10
Lately, Ive taken to 21
Getting and Spending 25
Ariadne in Triumph 31
Theseus Forgetting 35
Dido Refuses to Speak 38
From the Life of Saint Peter 49
Her Argument for the Existence of God 58
Ovid in Exile 64
“. . . More Instructive Than a Long Trip to Europe” 69
Still Life 72
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