Synopses & Reviews
Explosive language, rough sensuousness, and an unflinching eye — here is a poet who doesn't look away and is committed to poetrys first purpose: to bring song. Tombo
is a book of lyrics fueled in equal parts by realism and big-fish storytelling, a book of wanderers, foghorns, summer rain, feral cats, and city jazz. Built on heartbreak particulars, these poems are raw, mysterious dilations of the moments of existence. Di Pieros work has been praised by luminaries of the poetry world like Philip Levine, John Ashbery, Christian Wiman, the editor of POETRY,
and also by The New York Times,
the Philadelphia Inquirer,
and the San Francisco Chronicle.
"Di Piero (Nitro Nights), an essayist and winner of the 2012 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, delivers an effusive and musical collection (his 11th) that traverses strange landscapes replete with 'systemic pleasures.../ that make us feel at home in our elusive lives.' The poems are propelled by an urge to surprise and enrapture. Readers are guided through a well-adorned house, with ornamentations such as 'pepper trees, olive trees, lilac,/ narcissus, jasmine.../ and mock orange and eucalyptus' sprinkled throughout, until they feel 'the nail clipping's sting in the carpet.' However, the poems 'bite you/ with longing for relief from love,' piling abstraction upon abstraction until the intended meaning becomes either too distilled or too opaque. Too much feels overcooked, leaving one to wonder with Di Piero, 'When will you override what's imperfect/ and simply play?' The title poem describes a crazed man shoeless in a supermarket; the speaker reveals, 'I believed his happiness, and coveted/ a tidy universe.' This is painfully evident throughout, as the mess of the world receives a treatment so pristine that it's practically clinical: 'I'm complexifying, as usual,/ saying what should be simply something said.' Di Piero would do well to consider his own advice: 'Too much schoolroom poisons the idiom./ Too much reverence stinks up the joint.'" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Di Pieros poems have become more personal just as they have risen from the ground (of Philadelphia, of San Francisco) into the empyrean. These 'little astonishments' take on a body just as the ink hits the paper. Almost by themselves. A superb poet." Gerald Stern
"W.S. Di Piero writes so beautifully, so evocatively that I lose hours happily in his work. These poems will wash you out to sea and you won't even notice until you lie back on your raft and take a long, hard look at the sun." Stephen Elliott, author of Happy Baby
"These startlingly fresh poems concern themselves with the world-in-motion, life 'lived in its transitions,' where even in the stillness of night the imagination 'rushes toward the world.' Di Pieros poems relish the exactly rendered specifics of San Francisco, butlike Cavafys Alexandriahis city is the locus of memory and meaning and desire. He occupies it so fully, in this indelible book, as to become one of its permanent citizens." Mark Doty
"These rich, luscious, sinuous poems may be the best Di Piero has ever written. Reading them is like being returned to a neighborhood you once walked through, or dreamed about, or lived in, or saw in a moviemost likely years ago, most likely a place you believed you had lost foreverand being granted (by who knows what merciful or mischievous demigod?) the ability to view them more vividly and movingly than you ever could before, through a sensibility far more acute and attuned than what human beings are used to. If your heart doesnt break before you are halfway throughand if you dont love the way it breaks and look forward to its being broken again (and it will be)I will eat my copy. Though of course Ill have to run out right away and buy another one, because living without this book is no longer part of my plans." Troy Jollimore
"W. S. Di Piero gives off cascades of words that run like a warm engine, with all parts working together. There might be a mysterious noise or two along the way but dont worry, you'll be back on the road." Ed Ruscha
Praise for Di Piero:
His poems have the texture of American cities, the sights, sounds, and especially the smells of where weve lived in the last thirty years, and he has caught our American voices in all their glory and banality, our diction and our inflections, even when were talking to ourselves. By some magiclets call it inspirationhe knows us even when theres almost nothing to know.”
Philip Levine, Ploughshares
R. P. Blackmur once said that great poetry adds to the stock of available reality, and thats certainly true of W. S. Di Pieros work. He wakes up the language, and in doing so wakes up his readers, whose lives are suddenly sharper and larger than they were before. Hes a great poet whose work is just beginning to get the wide audience it deserves.”
Christian Wiman, editor in chief of POETRY
Having mastered the art of weaving gold thread from straw, W. S. Di Piero in his new collection exults in such commonplace materials as the argument of an afternoon or one streets undistinguished gift. The poetry that results is calm, grave, firm, sensuous and as deeply refreshing as a cup of well water.”
With language thats as simple as it is musical, Di Piero sets dazzling moments amid plainsong.”
The New York Times Book Review
W. S. Di Piero is a singular yet deceptive presence in American poetry. He fearlessly juxtaposes the Latinate and the Anglo-Saxon, the raunchy and the sacred, car horns and choir . . . Di Pieros is a moral imagination without a trace of sententiousness.”
W. S. Di Pieros poems insistently display the features of great art. The poems eschew solipsism, aggrandizement, and the consolation of fantasy, to grapple with the gritty reality of the twenty-first-century surround. Di Pieros milieu is firmly urban, and in this volume things are moving fast with an urgent, yearning-for-more impetus.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Di Piero searches for the words that will suffice, for the words that will ring as poetry and yet be wholly American, an idiom at once rich and rough-hewn, at once crafted and spontaneous.”
His poems are at once rich, serious, seething, and disturbing.”
Di Pieros poems are uncomfortably realistic. Many of them give the impression of some chunk of life that has been mercilessly broken off and refigured on the page. The pain it takes to do thisto suffer experience into formis the filament that ignites Di Pieros temperament and which sizzles through everything that he writes.”
Whether hes describing the vivid street characters from his childhood in South Philadelphia, the restorers in the Strozzi Chapel at Santa Maria Novella in Florence, or the apricot trees in his backyard in San Francisco, Di Piero looks at the world with a painters eye and a poets sense of craft.”
"This is a poetry of witness and invention, to be sure. Syntactic loops, music, nature, talkiness and wisdom or what passes for wisdom appear in almost every poem, making the collection rich with both music and delight." --The San Francisco Chronicle
"Tombo is a nod to the sublime, an acknowledgment of how insignificant we can feel in the face of natures grandeur, an admission that we are not that important in the scheme of things." Poets at Work
No one sounds like W.S. Di Piero. Explosive language, rough sensuousness, unflinching eyehere is a poet who will not look away, and who is always committed to poetrys first purpose: to bring song. Tombo is a book of lyrics fueled in equal parts by realism and big-fish storytelling, a book of wanderers, foghorns, summer rain, feral cats, and city jazz. Built on heartbreak particulars, these poems are raw, mysterious dilations of the moments of existence:
Life, as you say, my friend,
is lived in its transitions.
Theres a yonder
that abides right here.
It lives in the electric air
of field or room,
unseen but palpable
as snow or blowing dust.
from The Running Dog”
About the Author
W. S. Di Piero
is the author of ten books of poetry. A contributor to New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review,
the New Republic,
and many other periodicals, he also writes a monthly column on visual arts for an independent newsweekly, the San Diego Reader.
A well-known essayist on art, literature, culture, and personal experience, the latest of his five essay collections contains his recent art writings: When Can I See You Again?
Di Pieros autobiographical essays have appeared in Best American Essays,
and he's an accomplished translator of Greek and Italian poetry. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and a Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Award, he lives in San Francisco.