Babylon Jar

Overview

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: ...
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Overview

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.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Casting a bemused eye on both ordinary and extraordinary experience, the poet of this fifth collection reports his discoveries in poems brimming with charm -- and rigorous technique. Throughout, expressive line breaks and syntax combine with an everyday vocabulary to create a tone that beckons and disarms. One never struggles or puzzles over a Hudgins poem, but instead chuckles at the quandary of housekeys snagged on a power line ('Keys'), contemplates a neighbor's tree festooned with bottle glass ('The Bottle Tree') or reflects on the murder of a kindly jeweler ('How to Stop'). Unfortunately, even Hudgins's technical virtuosity cannot offset the colorlessness of his language, resulting in few lines or poems that resonate in a reader's memory. Too often Hudgins's subjects and treatment of them lack emotional urgency, lapsing into wordy narratives and descriptions, or merely interesting epiphanies. (A poem that begins crisply with the narrator saving the accidentally spilled ashes of a girl he once 'flirted with/ ungracefully a time or two' ends with him disposing of them because 'they are sheer dust/ and should be honored as the dust they are.') Some readers might detect a philosophical subtlety beneath these casual surfaces, only to be dropped back into formulaic confessional narrative by the end of the poem. One closes the book feeling entertained -- often wonderfully so -- but unmoved, unchanged.
Library Journal
Often flowing over the page in a sort of loose latticework of words, Hudgins's poems give an immediate sense of energy and freedom. There are little edges of violence throughout--a copperhead strikes the poet's boot, even daffodils don't spring but erupt--and a sense of spinning just on the edge. But the poet is in control, bringing us back to safety: "before he flooded the rubble, he swept up the dust of Babylon/ to give as presents, and he stored it in a jar." Just be careful about opening the lid.
Kirkus Reviews
The University of Cincinnati professor and author of The Glass Hammer (1994) seems less concerned with southern roots in his fifth collection, a serious and engaging volume that continues the writer's explorations in muscular religion. In strong measures with rhythmic line breaks, Hudgins ponders the miraculous world of nature in all its beauty and violence. Grackles in a chinaberry tree conform to the tree's shape; in 'Poem,' daffodils spike the soil, then later emerge in 'The Daffodils Erupt in Clumps'; an 'Elegy for the Bees' justifies the insects' necessary plunder of flowers; and 'Hail' witnesses the flora and fauna 'hammered dead' in a hailstorm. Hudgins' narratives often consider the 'sacred or blasphemous' in odd moments: In 'The Red Seats,' a drunk is steadied at a ball game; in 'One Threw a Dirt Clod and It Ran,' a boyish romp leads to an animal's death; 'We Were Simply Talking' records the poet's near-death experience in a car accident; and in 'Rain,' a macabre news story asserts the persistence of mythic truth in 'blood sacrifice and fate.' Religious imagery permeates Hudgins' garden idylls, which also resonate with historical precedent—a tree stump serves as nature's altar and abattoir in 'Stump.' The author's subtle forms include poems that nicely reproduce their subjects: 'Catching Breath' and 'Wind' find their patterns in natural movement.Two narratives about (mis)handling the ashes of the dead capture Hudgins at his best: profane in the face of solemnity. A solid collection.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395909942
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 8/3/1998
  • Pages: 80
  • Product dimensions: 8.92 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.03 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Hudgins was born in Texas, raised mainly in Alabama, and educated all across the Uninted States. Today, he teaches at the University of Cincinnati, where he lives with his wife, the novelist Erin McGraw.
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Table of Contents

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 a 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
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 Privileges 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
Acknowledgments 71
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