As Is

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“James Galvin has a voice and a world, perhaps the two most difficult things to achieve in poetry.”—The Nation

"Galvin's poems seem straightforward enough—but they're not....Galvin writes here like a force of nature. VERDICT: Excellent reading for contemporary poetry enthusiasts not looking for the overblown."—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

James Galvin’s poems have zero percent body fat. His tightly controlled and detailed poems evoke measured optimism in a spare existential world where certain characters—“The Mastermind” and the “Members of the Board”—are recurring shadows. Like fables suggesting new truths, personal narratives and love poems intertwine to confront the various paradoxes of domestic life, art, and politics, and the line “All poems are love poems” leans hard against “Some poems are better off dead.” In As Is, both claim their hard-won place.

I think black holes are just plastic
Garbage bags blowing down the midnight highway
That is the Universe.
There aren’t as many dimensions as we thought.
A black hole can disappear anything that nears it.
We all know that.
The farthest away I’ve ever been is in my own home,
Finally cleaning out my daughter’s room
So another little girl can live here.
The black plastic bag I held in my hand
Was infinitely capacious.
I mean I could throw anything in there.

James Galvin is a Wyoming rancher and on the permanent faculty at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He is the author of six books of poetry, a novel, and the acclaimed memoir The Meadow. He lives in Tie Siding, Wyoming, and Iowa City, Iowa.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Galvin's seventh collection of poems returns to the barren, apparently hopeless landscapes of his previous books, though, as before, hope pops up in the most unlikely places, at the most unexpected times. While not as sharp as the almost embarrassingly moving X, this book begins in the aftermath of the relationship whose demise X chronicled, opening in a vulnerable state where "Confusion/ Overwhelms" and "The whole world is watching." Then, through willed belief-as in the poem prayer, which says "This poem is not what you think./ It's what thinks you"-a measure of control is achieved. Toward the end, Galvin pays tribute to newfound love-"When I rest my head over her heart/ I can hear the rowing,/ Paddle-splash and oarlock-knock." But of course it's not that simple. Throughout the book are woven poems about a hazily sketched, cosmically powerful character named "The Mastermind," who, with cohorts including "The Go-To Guy" and "The Expert," gets in the way of smooth sailing: "Did I mention the mastermind was absent-minded?" But in Galvin's world, which now mirrors and comments on post-9/11 America, the bad is as good as the good, because, "Everything/ That threatens us/ Threatens to save us." (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556592966
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 873,354
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

James Galvin is both a rancher in Wyoming and on the permanent faculty at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He is the author of six books of poems, an acclaimed memoir The Meadow, and a novel.

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