Synopses & Reviews
From the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Ruth Lilly Prize
This new collection by acclaimed poet Carl Dennis is about vocation in the largest sense, the work that we believe gives our lives meaning, and the challenges that come in defining such work and in doing it well. The poems approach their subject from a variety of perspectives: a calling may involve a compromise with limitations, or be an expression of individual purpose; if a calling in some poems provides an alternative to the disorder of the world, in others it offers a means to shape the world as we are shaped by it. As the poems speak to each other, they form a dialogue of attitudes that makes room for both frustration and achievement, a dialogue that includes us and takes us beyond ourselves.
"Pulitzer-winner Dennis is our most precise and dogged poet of regret. The wistful and vaguely stricken speaker of this 11th collection casts a wide net, bemoaning not only past misdeeds or aborted possibilities, but what he might not do in the future, or what he might have done had things turned out differently in the past--'...if your daughter/ Is saving half her dollar-a-day allowance/ So as not to be penniless in old age,/ You may want to ask what part you've played/ In making the future appear less promising/ Than the past.' These poems draw their power from a kind of white, middle-class guilt over a life not lived to its fullest, though, the poems know, not lived that badly either. Dennis believes not in 'love at first sight, but the will/ To be ready to endorse the feeling/ Should it arise.' While he does reach for--and seek to provide--a kind of empathy ('If you were troubled like us, the sleepless,/ You too would try to comfort yourself with numbers,/ Seeking our symptoms of your affliction/ Among the many who appear rested'), there is too little faith in human connection in these free verse lines to truly convince readers that anyone can actually help anyone else. Nonetheless, there is a strange magic in these poems. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
About the Author
Carl Dennis is the author of nine books of poetry, including Practical Gods, winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. A recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, in 2000 he was awarded the Ruth Lilly Prize from Poetry Magazine and the Modern Poetry Association for his contribution to American poetry. He teaches in the English Department at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and is a sometime member of the faculty of the MFA program in creative writing at Warren Wilson College.