Common Carnage

Overview

Taking a different tack than John Keats in 'Ode to a Nightingale, ' Stephen Dobyns joins sixty-nine poems in Common Carnage, his ninth book of poetry, in order to address the conundrum 'How hard to love the world; we must love the world.' The spiritual intermixed with the bawdy, the courageous with the cowardly, the kindly with the cruel - Common Carnage rejects the decorous and decorative to map the complexity, the common carnage of our lives as it seeks to understand our ...
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Overview

Taking a different tack than John Keats in 'Ode to a Nightingale, ' Stephen Dobyns joins sixty-nine poems in Common Carnage, his ninth book of poetry, in order to address the conundrum 'How hard to love the world; we must love the world.' The spiritual intermixed with the bawdy, the courageous with the cowardly, the kindly with the cruel - Common Carnage rejects the decorous and decorative to map the complexity, the common carnage of our lives as it seeks to understand our nature.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Questions, often informed with irony and always with wit, dominate Dobyns's ninth book, which matches in forcefulness the best of his earlier collections, including Cemetery Nights and Body Traffic. Accessibly cerebral poems, such as "Then What Is the Question" (about the Sphinx's legendary query) set a stage and suggest conclusions: "Who knows what strains of stupidity/ were deleted from the Theban gene pool when some/ cheerful dummy rubbed his jaw and said, Beats me." Other interrogatives run on: "Do I/ live by letting the clock push me forward? Are one's fellow creatures only merchandise?/ Do I let myself be used up, then cast away?" He invents cryptic scenarios: a panhandling dog smokes a cigarette and tells fortunes (every answer is "Yes"); an attempt to explain physically, even by dissection, good (the Pope) versus evil (the terrorist Arkan) discovers differences ("Arkan is a vegetarian, the Pope likes meat"), but no explanations, until a nurse conjures the putative seat of evil, a spider in Arkan's skull. There are poems on Homeric themes, jazz musicians, on love and sex; in some, objects, e.g., padlocks, are seen as souls. What distinguishes Dobyns is the peculiar, edgy way he cuts his own darkness with a humor that is rooted in curiosity. (Apr.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140587487
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/12/1996
  • Series: Penguin Poets Series
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Table of Contents

Winter Nights 1
The Privileges of Philosophy 2
Then What Is the Question? 4
Headlong Rush 6
The Rotations of the Earth 8
Getting Tougher 10
Painful Fingers 12
The World as Textbook 13
Dead Dreaming 15
Art et Al. 17
Sex Before Dog 21
Dead Poet Ha Ha 23
Widened Horizons 24
Back to School 25
Bead Curtain 27
Heaven 30
Indifference to Consequence 32
Trying Not to Be Cynical 34
To Keep One's Treasure Protected 36
Lil' Darlin' 38
Nouns of Assemblage 40
Best in the Business 42
Nocturnal Obstruction 43
What They Do Always 45
Sketching Hector's Eye 47
Cold Marble 49
Street Racket 51
Garden Bouquet 53
Artistic Matters 55
The Casualties of April 57
Uninvited 59
Fade Out 60
Homeric Offering 62
Digging the Knife Deeper 64
No Hands 66
Consolations of Water 68
Bad Luck Fence 69
Hans Ironfoot et Al. 72
Santiago: Plaza de Armas 75
Let's Take a Break 76
Thelonious Monk 77
Odysseus Discusses Achilles 79
Who Is Mistaken? 81
Pink Spot 83
Golden Broilers 84
Being Happy 85
Education 87
The Invitations Overhead 89
Primavera 90
The Impossible 91
Rattletrap 93
Fleamarket 95
Hopeless Tools 96
Allegorical Matters 97
What's That, Who's There? 99
Ancient Teaching 100
Second Skin 101
The Big Difference 102
Street Smart 104
Pushing Ahead 106
Gutter Trouble 108
Visitor 110
Lullaby 112
When a Friend 115
His Decision 117
Hunting the Monster 118
Middle-Aged Black Men 120
Quiet Time 123
Crimson Invitation 125
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