A Glossary of Chickens: Poems [NOOK Book]

Overview

With skillful rhetoric and tempered lyricism, the poems in A Glossary of Chickens explore, in part, the struggle to understand the world through the symbolism of words. Like the hens of the title poem, Gary J. Whitehead's lyrics root around in the earth searching for sustenance, cluck rather than crow, and possess a humble majesty.

Confronting subjects such as moral depravity, nature's indifference, aging, illness, death, the tenacity of spirit, and the possibility of joy, the ...

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A Glossary of Chickens: Poems

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Overview

With skillful rhetoric and tempered lyricism, the poems in A Glossary of Chickens explore, in part, the struggle to understand the world through the symbolism of words. Like the hens of the title poem, Gary J. Whitehead's lyrics root around in the earth searching for sustenance, cluck rather than crow, and possess a humble majesty.

Confronting subjects such as moral depravity, nature's indifference, aging, illness, death, the tenacity of spirit, and the possibility of joy, the poems in this collection are accessible and controlled, musical and meditative, imagistic and richly figurative. They are informed by history, literature, and a deep interest in the natural world, touching on a wide range of subjects, from the Civil War and whale ships, to animals and insects. Two poems present biblical narratives, the story of Lot's wife and an imagining of Noah in his old age. Other poems nod to favorite authors: one poem is in the voice of the character Babo, from Herman Melville's Benito Cereno, while another is a kind of prequel to Emily Dickinson's "She rose to His Requirement."

As inventive as they are observant, these memorable lyrics strive for revelation and provide their own revelations.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Quietly witty, observant, and frequently sad, this third outing from Whitehead (The Velocity of Dust) sets itself apart through understatement, and through the connections it keeps making between contemporary midlife dilemmas and the 19th-century American literature—especially Herman Melville’s life and letters—that Whitehead (a New Jersey high school teacher) knows well. A poem called “Homeschooled” asks, “Aren’t we all, really, in the end?” It’s a book of scenes and memories from which the poet himself must remember to learn: a flashback to teenage shame concludes with “the future, like the lost pair of sneakers/ we found in the spring, and growing between/ their double-knotted laces a sapling.” Childlessness—and, apparently, divorce—flutter through Whitehead’s lines like the sad and comical chickens in the title poem, and in the heartbroken “The Coop.” The more contemporary poems, funny or otherwise, sustain a personal gravity that those set in the 19th century lack, and yet it all holds together as the record of a sensitive, careful, unfashionable, acoustically gifted soul, who like Whitehead’s “One-Legged Pigeon,” “needed no pity,/ but just a crumb,/ something to hop toward.” (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"Whitehead's poems are learned without being fussy, masterfully observant and complete. He provides a seriously good time. . . . He is attentive in ways that offer a digestible, quirky adhesiveness. . . . [L]ike Tobias Wolff or other contemporaries in that league, Whitehead blurs with perfection the line between story-telling and poetry. . . . I repeat. Masterfully observant and complete."—Barbara Berman, Rumpus

"It's skillful and beautiful without being twee, and like every book I'm about to mention, it deserves a wide audience. It's also gently amusing, with some high-flying acrobatics thrown in that never feel forced."—Barbara Berman, TheRumpus.net

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400845965
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 3/7/2013
  • Series: Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Course Book
  • Pages: 72
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Gary J. Whitehead is the author of two previous collections of poetry. His work has appeared in the "New Yorker" and has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s public radio program the "Writer’s Almanac". Whitehead teaches English at Tenafly High School in New Jersey and lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.
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Table of Contents

Oyster 1
I
The Wimp 5
Lot's Wife7
Spice Rack 9
Sourdough 10
Luminescent Jellyfish 11
Somebody Throws It In 13
The Slip 15
Trap Door 16
Owl Pellet I Show My Students 19
One-Legged Pigeon 20
II
A Glossary of Chickens 23
Sleeping with My Dog 24
Warren 25
Pastoral 26
Stupid 33
Tied Dog 35
Letter Written in Pokeberry Ink 36
Homeschooled 37
Babo Speaks from Lima 38
III
Slaveship 43
Melville Passing 45
First Prospective 46
The Coop 47
Death Watches 49
In the Butterfly Conservatory 50
Drosophila melanogaster 51
Uncle 53
Ararat 54
Some Notes 55
Acknowledgments 57
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