Synopses & Reviews
J. D. McClatchy is the author of seven previous collections of poetry and of three collections of prose. He has edited numerous other books, including The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry, and has written a number of opera libretti that have been performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, La Scala, and elsewhere. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, where he served as president from 2009 to 2012. McClatchy teaches at Yale University and is editor of The Yale Review.
"'You who read this too will die./ None loved his life as much as I,' we read early in this big, sometimes stark, sometimes surprising new volume, the first U.S. selected and seventh volume of poems from the urbane, serious poet, editor, critic, and librettist (Hazmat). Certainly it confirms his place in a line of deft writers adroit with inherited forms, with complex sentences, with modern love (especially same-sex love): W.H. Auden and James Merrill, Ovid and Horace, Anthony Hecht, and Elizabeth Bishop receive homage direct and indirect. A crown of sonnets, a copious knowledge of opera, blank verse, syllabics, trimeter couplets, and intricate stanzas make the book a kind of cyclopedia of forms. Yet the poems especially the newer ones also show what sets McClatchy apart: 'What happens when the language is a mask/ And the words we use to hush this up have failed?' Deciding 'the poem always has a shadow/ Under its reliefs,' betraying his adult reserve 'With that singular lack of shame only a kid commands,' in narrative verse and in epigrams, McClatchy concedes the frailty of the body, the frangibility and the stubbornness of desire, making him a poet of modern mortality (as in the new poem 'My Robotic Prostatectomy'). It is an unflinching, uncommonly serious as well as a technically careful performance." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
At last, a definitive selection of the elegant work by a poet at the forefront of American poetry for more than three decades.
With his first several books, J. D. McClatchy established himself as a poet of urbanity, intellect, and prismatic emotion, in the tradition of James Merrill, W. H. Auden, and Elizabeth Bishop––one who balances an exploration of the underworld of desire with a mastery of poetic form, and whose artistry reveals the riches and ruins of our “plundered hearts.” Now, opening with exquisite new poems––including the stunning “My Hand Collection,” a catalogue of art objects that steals up on the complexity of human touch, and a witty and profound poem entitled “My Robotic Prostatectomy”––this selection is a glorious full tour of McClatchy’s career. It includes excerpts from the powerful book-length sequence Ten Commandments (1998) and his more recent works Hazmat (2002) and Mercury Dressing (2009)—books that explored the body’s melodrama, as well as the heart’s treacheries, grievances, and boundless capacities. All of his poems present a sumptuous weave of impassioned thought and clear-sighted feeling. He has been rightly hailed as a poet of “ferocious alertness,” one who elicits (says The New Leader) “the kind of wonder and joy we experience when the curtain comes down on a dazzling performance.”