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Entire Dilemma: Poems

Overview

Entire Dilemma is Michael Burkhard's seventh collection of poetry and his first book since W.W. Norton published My Secret Boat (A Notebook of Prose and Poems) in 1990. He has received a Whiting Writers' Award, the Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, and two grants from both the New York State Foundation for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has taught at various colleges and universities, most recently the University of Louisville, LeMoyne College, and Syracuse ...

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Overview

Entire Dilemma is Michael Burkhard's seventh collection of poetry and his first book since W.W. Norton published My Secret Boat (A Notebook of Prose and Poems) in 1990. He has received a Whiting Writers' Award, the Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, and two grants from both the New York State Foundation for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has taught at various colleges and universities, most recently the University of Louisville, LeMoyne College, and Syracuse University. During the 1990s, he has also worked as an alcoholism counselor, particularly with children whose lives have been impacted by alcoholism.

"On rare occasions one comes across an artist whose work feels truly haunted, as mysterious and resonant as the landscape or the constantly shifting reality of our dreams. . . . Michael Burkard's poetry presents a kaleidoscopic and rigorously self-reflective vision, encompassing at once a great tenderness for the world and an uneasiness with the surfaces to which we cling. . . . In a time of far too much cleverness and cacophony, Entire Dilemma serves as a touchstone, an indispensable reminder of just how quiet and redemptive poetry can be."-Provincetown Arts

"Burkard's poems are lit from within, radiant but disturbing. . . . Entire Dilemma exists . . . where complex hope, via poetic creation, defeats simple spiritual estrangement."-The Gettysburg Review

"Burkard's new book stands as an antidote to the fashionable but spiritually unambitious work that passes for publishable poetry now flooding the literary marketplace. Burkard returns us to a primary strangeness. . . . [He] is invested in a metaphysics of relationship, probing into how we treat each other (and hence ourselves). . . . His is an honest introspection mapping out hearts that ever slide."-Harvard Review

"Entire Dilemma is Michael Burkard's first book since 1990's My Secret Boat (A Notebook of Prose and Poems), and it is, in my mind, the most coherent of his collections. . . . The earlier work sings to and from what could be called 'American surrealism' (Williams and Stevens, Tate and Knott), with strains of Kafka, Babel, and Borges providing th

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Editorial Reviews

The Gettysburg Review
Burkards poems are lit from within, radiant but disturbing. . . . Entire Dilemma exists . . . where complex hope, via poetic creation, defeats simple spiritual estrangement.
Harvard Review
Burkards new book stands as an antidote to the fashionable but spiritually unambitious work that passes for publishable poetry now flooding the literary marketplace. Burkard returns us to a primary strangeness. . . . He is invested in a metaphysics of relationship, probing into how we treat each other (and hence ourselves). . . . His is an honest introspection mapping out hearts that ever slide.
Lagniappe
Entire Dilemma is Michael Burkards first book since 1990s My Secret Boat (A Notebook of Prose and Poems), and it is, in my mind, the most coherent of his collections. . . . The earlier work sings to and from what could be called American surrealism (Williams and Stevens, Tate and Knott), with strains of Kafka, Babel, and Borges providing the European backup vocals. This aesthetic is certainly present in Entire Dilemma, but it is also accounted for with a clarity that, for me, has been equally lacking in all poetry camps these days. . . . These are not position-taking poems which belabor a point in rapid succession, but they bring home the point by way of the bounce of ideas.
Rain Taxi
These poems give you the ease of eloquence, confidence that the center will hold, but then danger appears, and suddenly youre elsewherethe poem has transported you, reconstructed you, without losing a molecule of integrity or verisimilitude. Entire Dilemma . . . allows readers to find revelations in its archetypal images, from soundless bells to infinite railroad cars. These dont make us feel safe, but they do make us feel alive.
New Delta Review
Burkards poems, at their best, build a new world for us out of the one which is already hereas with his words, common elements recombine to bring forth something wholly new, yet somehow not fantastical, of this world yet never before seen (or seen this way).
Boston Review
Whats most admirable about Entire Dilemma, Burkards seventh book, is the authors shifting towards direct language. In these new poems, Burkards speakers try to forge connections with others while retaining the syntax-magic and mystery of his earlier poems.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The devastation of alcoholism and the loneliness of sobriety, the demands of death and memory and the challenges of language itself all find their way into Burkard's sixth collection, following 1990's diaristic My Secret Boat. Poems like 'The Summer After Last' brilliantly strike a balance between melancholy lyricism and Burkard's customary imagistic candor: 'I do not want to belabor invisibility,/ but if it isn't there in the spaces/ among the people as a spiritual thread/ then I do not want to be there either./Sea or no sea, house or not.' If not actually addressed to friends or lovers, the poems often call and respond to half-present figures, as Burkard haltingly revises relationships, building to a quietly impassioned pitch: 'I am thinking about planets in orbit. Lives orbiting other lives. Insatiable.' Such internal ruminations are interrupted by descriptions of colorful characters 'Mr. Nobody,' 'Mel,' 'The Boy Who Had No Shadow' who provide comic -- if surreally violent -- relief. Other poems in Burkard's more ruminative mode can be too abrupt, hitting the page in angular chunks '[Y]ou were there./ They said so, you agreed.// You left/ to see// if you could know her from afar' that are often less than self-justifying. Still, such moments seem intended to mirror life's fragmented successes and failures especially in the more harrowing narratives, and give the snatches of lyricism a deeply sweet plausibility.
Kirkus Reviews
The sixth book of poems by the author of My Secret Boat—which mixed prose and poetry—continues to document the poet's struggles with alcohol, a broken marriage, and a past he'd rather forget about. With his short-line simplicity and slight surreal touches, Burkard resists clarity when he's not outright sentimental, much in the style of Raymond Carver, though he fancies himself more in the tradition of Roethke. Two longish poems, '`Before the Dark' and 'How I Shaded the Book,' rely on a 12-step-like vocabulary to apologize to an old friend from his drunk days, and to credit a Graham Greene novel for a moment of clarity in his boozy life. Many of Burkard's little fables and parables are deliberately enigmatic: a boy without shadows is murdered; a man in rehab makes a wallet and then has it returned from the one he gave it to; a boy falls in love with a pencil after his father dies; and the hippie aphorisms of 'A Point,' where he declares that 'all you need is a point.' Burkard risks sheer triviality in his playful bits: 'Mel' seems little more than an excuse to ask, 'Who the hell is Mel?'; and 'Tom' allows him to blurt out about Toms he's known. Despite his occasional affirmation—a prayer to his dog, a hymn to beauty and simplicity—Burkard's strength is in his gloomy recollections: memories of an unwanted kiss, or imagining a world without him in it. Garbled syntax and overuse of the distancing 'one' detract from more honest insights.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781889330181
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books
  • Publication date: 9/1/1998
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 88
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Table of Contents

Before the Dark 13
The Tenderness 20
How I Shaded the Book 21
Next to the Lamp of a Panther 23
The Anniversary 25
When Sal Died 27
A Point 29
Ghost-Harm 31
Prose Noir 32
Stalin 33
Tom 35
Where People Took Mary 36
The Boy Who Had No Shadow 37
How to Ask 39
"Things" Which Have No Boundaries 40
The Job 42
The Man Who Made the Wallet 44
Prayer 46
Your Sister Life 47
Mel 49
My Socks 50
Unseen Falling 52
The Summer after Last 55
Picture of the Blueberry Money 56
Love's Money 58
The Spellers 60
Endings 62
If You Please 63
The Summer 64
You: My Friend, My 66
Cul-de-Sac 68
Another Infinity 70
Driving Through Her Father with the Desert 72
Star Held in Eye 73
My Constructor 74
But I Buy the Shirt 76
A Kiss and a Star 77
Sober Ghost 78
Goodbye 80
For Mary Hackett 81
Entire Dilemma 82
But Beautiful 84
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