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The poems in Babylon in a Jar extend the forceful explorations that Andrew Hudgins began with Saints and Strangers, his first book and a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in 1985. Since then, he has probed the nature of Southern experience, the conflict between religion and worldliness, the origins of poetry, the exaltations and perils of family. In this volume he brings such issues down to the old conflict between order and disorder. He responds with passion to the natural world, to history, to inheritance: ...
The poems in Babylon in a Jar extend the forceful explorations that Andrew Hudgins began with Saints and Strangers, his first book and a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in 1985. Since then, he has probed the nature of Southern experience, the conflict between religion and worldliness, the origins of poetry, the exaltations and perils of family. In this volume he brings such issues down to the old conflict between order and disorder. He responds with passion to the natural world, to history, to inheritance: "before he flooded the rubble, he swept up the dust of Babylon / to give as presents, and he stored it in a jar." The breadth and sweep of these poems, their variety and fervor, surpass Hudgins's previous work in After the Lost War (winner of the Poets' Prize), The Never-Ending (a runner-up for the National Book Award), and The Glass Hammer.
I couldn’t stand still watching them forever, but when I moved the grackles covering each branch and twig sprang together into flight and for a moment in midair they held the tree’s shape, the black tree peeling from the green, as if they were its shadow or its soul, before they scattered, circled and re-formed as grackles heading south for winter grain fields.
Oh, it was just a chinaberry tree, the birds were simply grackles. A miracle made from this world and where I stood in it.
But you can’t know how long I stood there watching.
And you can’t know how desperate I’d become advancing each step on the feet of my advancing shadow, how bitter and afraid I was matching step after step with the underworld, my ominous, indistinct and mirror image darkening with extreme and antic nothings the ground I walked on, inexact reversals, elongated and foreshortened parodies of each foot lowering itself onto its shadow.
And you can’t know how I had tried to force the moment, make it happen before it happened—not necessarily this though this is what I saw: black birds deserting the tree they had become, becoming, for a moment in midair, the chinaberry’s shadow for a moment after they had ceased to be the chinaberry, then scattering: meaning after meaning—birds strewn across the morning like flung gravel until they found themselves again as grackles, found each other, found South and headed there, while I stood before the green, abandoned tree.
Copyright © 1998 by Andrew Hudgins. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
1 The Chinaberry 3 After Muscling Through Sharp Greenery 5 Poem ("Blunt daffodil spikes") 6 Ashes ("My left hand joggled Johnny's arm") 7 In the Red Seats 10 Edge 12 Dragonfly 13 Night Class 15 One Threw a Dirt Clod and It Ran 17 Signs of Change in Weather 18 Wind 19 Supper 21 The Daffodils Erupt in Clumps 22 We Were Simply Talking 24 Heaven 25 Elegy for the Bees 27 Bodies of Water 28 Babylon in a Jar 31
2 Catching Breath 37 Plunge 38 How to Stop 40 Ashes ("Bill gripped the can in both hands") 42 In Alesia 43 Rain 44 Purple 46 Ball 49 These Priveleges Doth the Wolf Hold to This Hour 51 Hail 52 Goat God 53 Plant Two Seeds 55 Keys 56 Hammer and Scourge 58 When the Weak Lamb Dies 59 Tools: An Ode 60 The Bottle Tree 61 Why Stop? 64 The Hanging Gardens 65 Stump 69
Posted May 14, 2002
This is the first book by Hudgins that I've read. I've seen his poems in magazines, and those I've seen from Saints and Strangers I really loved. This collection isn't a let down. Hudgins has a definite style that he uses, that can sometimes be hard to understand, but more often than not the poems are good and hit home.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.