Synopses & Reviews
One of the root meanings of the word poet is maker. In Hammer we encounter the poems of a man who has obviously made not only the words at hand, but physical things rooms, houses, buildings in the world. Mark Turpin has made his living for the past twenty-five years as a carpenter and construction worker, and his debut collection offers a rare and profound view of manual labor's laconic, and largely male, world. In exciting contrast to the exhausted self-reference of much postmodern art, these poems are about something: a way of life that's well understood outside the classroom, but little mentioned within. In poems with titles like "Laborer's Code," "Last Hired," "Waiting for Lumber," "Sledgehammer's Song," and "Finish Work," Turpin renders, with precision and unsentimental passion, the honor and dignity, as well as the tedium and the small, everyday humiliations, of physical labor.
But Turpin is no noble savage his work has been highly praised by Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, Thom Gunn, Philip Levine, and others, and his poems have appeared in the best literary magazines. His poems create, perhaps out of the necessity of a new subject, an idiom and diction largely missing from contemporary American poetry. Hammer is to carpentry what A Boy's Will was to farming. Wherever Turpin's art takes him next, it's likely many will follow, with pleasure and gratitude.
"Mark Turpin hammers words to the page with a journeyman's sure hand. Read poems like "Downslope" and "Jobsite Wind," introduce yourself to the sturdy characters that emerge in poems like "Pickwork" and "Dan Fargo and Sons." These well-wrought poems praise the "spiritual condition" of labor, the thousand nails that hold together "The World of Things."
Dorianne Laux, Eugene, Oregon
Debut collection by a working carpenter. Praised by Pinsky, Gunn, and others.
"Turpin is a poet of unusual gifts. . . a meditative and social poet whose real subject is the connection between one person and another—sometimes, between one person and all others. His material is not local color, but the universal, and the building trades are presented not as exotic but for their likeness to the rest of life."—Robert Pinsky
"This work is so fundamentally substantial and pleasurable that it feels, to me, like an anthem."—Tony Hoagland
Mark Turpin has made his living for the past twenty-five years as a carpenter and construction worker, and his debut collection offers a rare and profound view of manual labor’s laconic, and largely male, world. He lives in San Francisco.
About the Author
Since 1985 Mark Turpin's poems have appeared in The Threepenny Review, The Paris Review, Slate, Boston Review, and Ploughshares among others, as well as in the anthology, The Handbook of Heartbreak edited by Robert Pinsky. In 1997 he received a prestigious Whiting Award for a book of poems in the new poets series, Take Three, published by Graywolf Press. He has spent twenty-five years building houses as a crew foreman and master carpenter. In 1999 he received the degree of Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University. He teaches poetry and works as a carpenter in the San Francisco Bay Area.