Famous Persons We Have Known

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In this collection of poems we indeed meet the famous persons promised in the title: Lon Chaney, Jr. buying eggs and bananas at a Capistrano Beach supermarket; Elvis "slipping out / with raccoons and owls to buy pink / Cadillacs for anyone that moved him;" Marshal Dillon, his head split by a surfing mishap; even Geronimo, galloping back toward nature, "ruined for love." But this books is about more than famous people. From the car and kokanee-chocked waters of Montana to an art gallery in Utah where the narrator ...
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Overview

In this collection of poems we indeed meet the famous persons promised in the title: Lon Chaney, Jr. buying eggs and bananas at a Capistrano Beach supermarket; Elvis "slipping out / with raccoons and owls to buy pink / Cadillacs for anyone that moved him;" Marshal Dillon, his head split by a surfing mishap; even Geronimo, galloping back toward nature, "ruined for love." But this books is about more than famous people. From the car and kokanee-chocked waters of Montana to an art gallery in Utah where the narrator doesn't meet a famous poet laureate, Robbins traces his own heritage and ours by connecting past and present, the dead and living. He does so with sly humor, a naturalist's precision, and a potent lyricism. The cumulative effect is that of a building rhythm that echoes our own trembling relationship to the land that somehow sustains us—"because," as the narrator says in "Bread," the collection's final poem, "feeding / the hungry is what it's always all about."
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What People Are Saying

Jonis Agee
"This is a humorous, sly, savvy book that explodes our national obsession—these poems are rooted in the weird conglomeration of movies, pop culture, and nature, where we haunt the landscape like the ghosts of fame we imagine at every gas station, grocery store, suburban mall, waiting for mysterious encounters with ineffable—Elvis or God—something to transform us, infuse us with passion, lead us out of the darkness of ordinary life."
Ted Kooser
"This is the most colorful book of poems I've read in recent years. There is something fresh in almost every line, and when I came to the end of the last poem, I felt I'd been given a world."
William Trowbridge
"Famous Persons We Have Known draws us to it with the deep resonance of a great river or lake, one which reflects our inner landscape. The poems are grounded in the geography of the American West—its seasons, its people, its destruction—and lifted by the music Robbins coaxes out of language. They reveal a sympathy with nature and a passion for humane awareness in a culture which often seems to tell us merely to consume and, "Be happy you know nothing." The collection's final lines, about loved ones we must mourn, also apply to these poems, perhaps to all poems good enough to move us profoundly: 'They are feeding us, even as they leave. / They are inside of us, kneeling and singing. / They break us and tear from within / as if we were bread. They help us / turn new into the life we didn't know was already here.'"
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780910055666
  • Publisher: Eastern Washington University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2000
  • Pages: 88
  • Product dimensions: 6.01 (w) x 8.99 (h) x 0.27 (d)

Meet the Author

RICHARD ROBBINS grew up in California and Montana. His first collection, The Invisible Wedding, was published in 1984. Over the years, Robbins has received awards from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, the McKnight Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He currently directs the creative writing program and the Good Thunder Reading Series at Minnesota State University, and lives in Mankato with his wife, the poet Candace Black, and their two sons.
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Table of Contents

FAMOUS PERSONS WE HAVE KNOWN
Lon Chaney, Jr., at the Supermarket in Capistrano Beach
Dick
Roethke on Film
The Bulldog Edition of The Los Angeles Times
Coming Back to Life
Artists and Their Garages
George McGovern Campaign Rally, San Diego, 1972
Surfing Accident at Trestles Beach
Mansface
By Moonlight
Stagecoach
"To My Very Good Friend, [Signed] Jimmy Hoffa"
Rosary
On Not Introducing Myself to the Poet Laureat When We Both Shopped for Art at the Phillips Gallery, Salt Lake City
The High Lake Past the Field
Paparazzo
May on the Wintered-Over Ground
Crossing the Arctic Waste with Ana
Meditation

VIEWS OF TABLE BAY
Douglas Islands
Skin Diving over the Shelf
Lake Bottom
Painted Rocks
Fire Ring
The Dock in Winter
Orchard, April
Lookout on Miller Point

FRACTION HYMNS AND SONNETS OUT OF TOWN
Shrinking
That Year
Georgic After an Argument
Stocking Rock Creek
Self-Guided Tour to Avalanche Lake
Two Days at Arch Cape
Essay on Rime
Man Burned for Spying
The Argument
Redwing
After Being Quiet for a Long Time
Violent Hours
On the Train Across America in 1902
Moon in Smoke, Teton Park
How November Comes
Sign
Pictures
Lockerbie
Confession
After the Miracle
Our Empty House
Demonstration
The Heavens
The Lunar Driver
Bread

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