Disfortune / Edition 1

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Disfortune is not in the mainstream of American poetic speech, nor is it easily placed into any of the well-known poetic speech-camps that have arisen on its margins. Terse, haunting lyrics expose the irreducible contradictions of living, wherein “the talking-singing, the whole talking-/singing ball of yarn, begins to unravel.” Deceptively casual in tone, these poems offer startling confrontations with “the unoriginal/oblivion,” with “the contrived delicacy/of what is emptied and kept.” Joe Wenderoth sees “fortune” as the mute history of events proceeding toward the ultimate security; his poems arise from “disfortune,” from the need “Just to sing the song that’s kept you/quiet/all this time.” This book is a rare occurrence, marking not only a new intimacy with the world, but also a remembering of the determined motion of intimacy itself.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Joe Wenderoth's brave new poetic talent is like nothing so much as a live wire writing its own epitaph in sparks. [His poems] throb brilliantly with a sense of the 'too much,' which Longinus identified with the sublime. But in Wenderoth's case the too much is the too little or the too ordinary – a very remarkable discovery to have made so late in the history of poetry. Philip Larkin and a few American poets have approached it, but Wenderoth's instrument is sharper than theirs; he makes quick cuts in the meat of the ordinary, which is the meat of the impossible." —Calvin Bedient, Colorado Review

"At times, Wenderoth's poems sound like a tougher, demotic Stevens: skewed aphorisms aimed precisely at our sense that we can be fully at ease in 'position.' In other poems, his difficulty is more like Paul Celan's. His word-play brings an image — say, trees coming to life in spring — half into focus, so that it remains both inner and outer, metaphysical and sexual; so that the fullest action is, once again, no action at all. An oddly active 'oblivion' is the sum of all the hurries and indifferences that make Wenderoth's world grimmer than Williams', certainly than Crane's. Yet one can't help feeling that, in a strange way, he approves of it, if only because it brings home the old Buddhist truths — suffering, change, non-selfhood — and thereby opens up a truly democratic compassion."—Alan Williamson, American Poetry Review

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This volume introduces a poet and some impressive poems in which he uses tangible imagery to depict the elusiveness of experience. ``Detailed History of the Western World'' reads, in its entirety: ``where the river gets swift/ my grandfather stops rowing/ turns round/ and with one oar/ sweeps a row-boat full of cats/ into water so black/ you could say/ it was almost anything.'' Two poems pay direct homage to Wallace Stevens, and another pays moving tribute to William Carlos Williams. Like Stevens, Wenderoth has a passion for philosophical ideas; at the same time he follows Williams's dictum: no ideas but in things. The result is poetry that is intellectually charged but whose final fidelity is to the senses. Despite the constant hum of thinking, these tightly compressed poems exhibit an acute awareness of the transience of any given thought. (Aug.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819512260
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 8/25/1995
  • Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 88
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.21 (d)

Meet the Author

JOE WENDEROTH grew up near Baltimore. He graduated with a B.A. in English/Creative Writing from Loyola College in Baltimore, attended the graduate Creative Writing program at New York University, then transferred to and received an M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College. To pay for food, shelter, and music, he has done and continues to do what he has to do.

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Table of Contents

Yellow-Jacket Devouring Live Cicada 3
Sleep In Front Of Me 4
Extravagance Of Any Body 5
Morning Fiction 6
False Idols 8
Alone Throwing Stones 9
Letter To Plato 10
Learned From Billie Holiday 11
Aesthetics Of The Bases Loaded Walk 12
Daily News, March Into April 1993 14
Spring Has Again Needlessly 15
Bus-Ride North To Baltimore 16
In The Sentence Of Sleep 17
Things Written During Dwight Yoakams Voice 18
Passage: Away From The Handlessness Of The Light 19
Among Thinkers 20
Phone-Call With My Mother 21
What You Don't Want To Happen Won't Happen 23
Autobiography Of A Born Singer 24
The Senate 25
Detailed History Of The Western World 29
Like Blood From A Deep Cut 30
All The Hurry 31
Zookeeper Lacan 32
"The Most Beautiful World Is Like A Heap Of Rubble, Thrown Down In Confusion" 33
Demerol 35
Calling Through Bushels Of Dead Crabs: Dream 36
The Voices Of Older Girls Standing Together In The Calm Dirty Ocean 37
In Utero 38
Outside The Hospital 39
Poem: An Illocal Custom Which Must Be Half-Forgotten 40
Death 41
Feeding A Talking Bird 42
Is That You Can Hear 43
Love Poem 44
Prayer 45
A Talking Bird Refuses To Title His Poems 46
You 47
The Flat Road Runs Along Beside The Frozen River 48
Early Winter Afternoons 51
Unplumbable 52
Phonograph 53
For An Inspecific Sorrow 54
To My Fathers 55
Disease Samadhi 56
Disfortune 57
Pain-Song 58
Lose Hold Of The Blessing 59
Thanksgiving 60
Leaving A Moving Picture Matinee 61
Wallace Stevens Describing The Need For And Then The Consequences Of Elvis Presley 62
Wallace Stevens Lecturing At The Community College 63
"Flowers Are A Tiresome Pastime" 64
Someone Who Purely Looks The Part 66
After 67
Probably A Strong Undertow 68
Notes and Acknowledgments 69
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