As Long As It's Big: A Narrative Poem

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Overview

"O for a muse of napalm..."

Years in the making, As Long As It's Big is a stunning and unique poetic achievement. By turns rollicking, funny, and deeply moving, this dramatic poem tells a tragic story — the collapse of a marriage after the suicide of a child — within the topsy-turvy venue of a divorce court ruled by an alternately cynical and sentimental judge. John Bricuth cleanly balances sensitive portrayals of painful lives with hilarity, chaos, and occasionally ribald caricatures. Hugely entertaining and ...

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Overview

"O for a muse of napalm..."

Years in the making, As Long As It's Big is a stunning and unique poetic achievement. By turns rollicking, funny, and deeply moving, this dramatic poem tells a tragic story — the collapse of a marriage after the suicide of a child — within the topsy-turvy venue of a divorce court ruled by an alternately cynical and sentimental judge. John Bricuth cleanly balances sensitive portrayals of painful lives with hilarity, chaos, and occasionally ribald caricatures. Hugely entertaining and immensely readable, Bricuth's verse narrative will absorb anyone seeking to unravel the truths of modern family life.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist

Bricuth's magnetically readable long song crackles with cynical laughter and pulses with all-too-human sadness.

Johns Hopkins Magazine

It's a roller coaster of a narrative that is by turns hilarious, raunchy, slapstick, heartbreaking, tender, and sweet.

Prairie Schooner

Performed as a sonata...an ideal gift for anyone suffering through divorce.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801882456
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2005
  • Series: Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction Series
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John Bricuth is the pen name of John T. Irwin, former editor of the Georgia Review and author of numerous works of literary criticism and poetry, including Just Let Me Say This About That, the inaugural volume in the Sewanee Writers' Series from the Overlook Press. He is the Decker Professor in the Humanities and former chair of the Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University. In 2005 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His books include American Hieroglyphics, The Mystery to a Solution, and Doubling and Incest / Repetition and Revenge.

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Read an Excerpt

... Indeed, so strongly does this judge I'm mostly quoting feel about divorce:Its repercussions, roots, parallelExpressions of despair in modern dance That when these cases come before his courtMost times he slows them to a crawl, which isTo say, inserts an extra step, makes The litigants appear with their attorneysIn his chambers, then forbids the lawyersTheir accustomed roles, instead of adversaries Has them act, amici curiae,As advocates of marriage, seeking waysThis one specific union they'd Been paid to break might yet be saved by simplySitting down together 'round a table,Spending time — much as it might take (This judge'll clear his schedule any weekFor eyewash of this sort) — just to traceA battling couple's troubles to their source, Recovering, if they can, some sense of whatThey'd each first found appealing in the other,Thought best, loved most, then lost in time's Relentless acid bath, and how, see that'sThe question, how the very things they'd mostAdmired became with years the irritants That rubbed them raw as cobs till just the soundOf one another's voices set their teethOn edge, had them fingering hard crockery Anent some insupportable Retort. But what, sir, takes your breath away'sThe way the judge demands the lawyers play A part in this sad therapeutic farce,Requires they be constructive, give the guttedCouple free advice about the trials Ensuing from divorce: suits for custody,Child support, moving outOf state, stuff like that, and then to top It off, he makes these same attorneys, menMuch married (consequently, used to lotsOf yapping), testify like gospel shouters In a pew about how youth is shortAnd passion strong and people change with years,How quitters never win, how life is long, A marriage longer still, grim death the longestOne of all, crazy stuff like that,But from the heart, sharing their emotions, Showing they know how to listen withA look as this same judge asks Mrs. MuffyMerkin, "And when your husband called you that, "How did that make you feel? Just tell us whatYou felt." All this the judge exacts from cruelAttorneys, makes them do, or else sit through, And keep their faces ruled....

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2006

    Big In So Many Ways

    After listening to John Bricuth¿s reading from As Long As It¿s Big for the St. Louis Writers Guild, I was impressed and purchased his book. However, I must confess, I was a little daunted by the cover description: 'A Narrative Poem,' which implies a long poem. I recalled Mr. Bricuth telling us it was written in blank verse (not the free verse I¿m accustomed to), and I thought, Gee, am I qualified to read this? I hadn¿t actually read a long narrative poem since college and that was, yikes, more than thirty years ago. After the first page or so, however, I was absorbed. Now, after having finished the book, the form fascinates me, primarily because of Bricuth¿s brilliant mastery of it. He made it easy and natural to read, almost like listening to my own heartbeat, quickly, in tempo with my life and all of those around me. Reading in rhythm with the rhyme is of course the intended effect but how few of us can write in such rhythmic rhyme? Bricuth¿s pacing and the juxtaposition of tragic verse and humor work exceptionally well. I'm amazed with As Long As It¿s Big, how its three-line blank verse is so skillfully crafted and beautifully written, especially since it is a 217-page (long) narrative poem. One of my favorite passages is, ¿Looking back, realizing most of / What they¿d gotten simply served to give / Times liquid moments weight, some space where life¿s / Bright foam could pool and linger in a thing, / Not run away like moonlight through your fingers¿.¿ As throughout the book, it matches the imagery with the character¿s emotions perfectly. This fine poem will remain on my shelf as a mainstay of brilliant writing to encourage others to read, to read again, and to select passages for inspiration. (As with all my writing, if you don¿t agree you can always feed it to the fish.)

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