Fragile Acts

Overview


The world is terrifying and exhilarating. Believing firmly in the romantic notion that “embellishment is love,” Allan Peterson in Fragile Acts combines the intellectual force of T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens, the ethereal wonder of Robert Hass, and the tight lyric beauty of Elizabeth Bishop and Donald Hall. These steely, wide-ranging poems are at once personal and philosophical, incisive and meditative—funny, serious, compassionate and searching.

Juxtaposing the fast pace of ...

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Overview


The world is terrifying and exhilarating. Believing firmly in the romantic notion that “embellishment is love,” Allan Peterson in Fragile Acts combines the intellectual force of T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens, the ethereal wonder of Robert Hass, and the tight lyric beauty of Elizabeth Bishop and Donald Hall. These steely, wide-ranging poems are at once personal and philosophical, incisive and meditative—funny, serious, compassionate and searching.

Juxtaposing the fast pace of contemporary society with the quiet localism and naturalism of the great American transcendentalists, Peterson's sinewy, muscular collection reveals a profoundly intelligent, curious mind leaping from object to thought to emotion. And yet, poem after poem, Peterson somehow binds seemingly unrelated elements into one stunning whole. You’ll nod your head in reflection one moment and laugh out loud the next. These moving poems are a profound delight to read.

Peterson writes with wondering beauty: “As a child I knew I was sleeping when I began / falling though still furled in my sheets / and I would look over other people’s shoulders / to see what they were reading / the headlines the footnotes / Extra! Extra! / a boy has left his room through a map on the wall.”
And again later, with a sly smile: “When she twirled and slapped / a mosquito and missed, a red sun stayed on her leg throughout / most of the chapter on Self Reliance.”

2012 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist for Poetry

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - Elizabeth Lund
…[Peterson] makes larger leaps of thought on one page than many writers do in several…The strongest poems in Fragile Acts are cohesive yet surprising, a welcome reminder that language and ideas create a breathtaking realm.
Publishers Weekly
In his fourth volume, Peterson combines lessons learned from the poetry of John Ashbery with wisdom from his own long career as a practitioner and professor of the visual arts to create poems that work a bit like what might result if Shakespeare’s sonnets mated with paintings by the abstract expressionists. Peterson’s poems shift briskly between thoughts and images, but hold onto the emotions that bind these poems together. Often, Peterson is elegiac in tone, but as alert to the new lives engendered by what’s lost as he is saddened by the loss itself, “how much diminishment it takes/ before we notice the most meaningful instances:/ water shuddering in one place,/ asleep in another.” Humor and profundity bubble out of the same source: “Like baby corns in Cashew Chicken the ideas of the soul are plentiful/ and poorly developed.” Poems stop themselves suddenly before swerving, yielding unexpected truths through observation: “A fish with an osprey in its back emerges from the Sound/ and nothing can be learned by more analysis.” While Peterson isn’t creating a wholly new poetry, he also isn’t simply reiterating an old one: his work demands, and deserves, attention. (July)
From the Publisher

A National Book Critics Circle Award and Oregon Book Award Finalist

"Like 'Brazil’s undiscovered caverns of amethyst,' Allan Peterson's Fragile Acts is a major find."
—John Ashbery

" A wonder to behold and a joy to read. Allan Peterson's poems dance to the music of time, like light on water or wind in the trees."
—Lewis Lapham

"Allan Peterson's collection Fragile Acts is a spacewalk on the wild side. I loved it. He puts music to the tension between the desperate human experience and the cool removal of the cosmos. His poems are refreshingly discrete artifacts--perfected and edgy-raw at the same time. They stand alone but gain power in one another's presence. This is an exciting new voice, one we've been waiting for."
—Laura Kasischke

"These poems rarely veer far from a well-defined reality that is often rooted in the natural world, fleabane, fish, fast clouds, osprey, and spider, but at the center of that world, and deeply embedded in it, is a thoughtful meditative speaker who both marvels at and raises insightful rhetorical questions about his place among so much mystery. His observing eye, as astute as the most finely-honed telephoto lens, is such that he¹s able to transform even the ordinary into something so exquisite it provokes wonder and awe."
—Mary Jo Bang

“[Allan Peterson’s] work demands, and deserves, attention.”—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“Allan Peterson’s meditations on domestic tranquility and ecocatastrophe are so smart that they could actually make you smarter” —Boston Review

"Though Peterson occasionally leads you like Wile E. Coyote into thin air, he is more likely to deliver you. He is a glissando in words."—The Brooklyn Rail

"Allan Peterson's Fragile Acts introduces us to a poet capable of changing from the personal and interior to the global and exterior in a single work, sometimes in a single line."—Shelf Awareness

"Peterson is one of our most valuable poet-thinkers and thinker-poets, a writer who can show us how much is within our grasp and much is beyond it." —LA Review of Books

"Soul-poppingly magnetic.”—The Rumpus

"A page-turner in the truest sense. "—The Cossack Review

"This is a book that belongs in your hands."—Hey Small Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781936365807
  • Publisher: McSweeney's Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/12/2012
  • Series: McSweeney's Poetry Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 698,311
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Allan Peterson has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and his work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize 10 times. His poems have appeared in The Nation, Boston Review, Agni, the Believer, and The Paris Review, as well as several anthologies. Peterson’s 2002 collection, Anonymous Or, won the Defined Providence Press Competition, and his follow-up volume, All the Lavish in Common (2005), won the prestigious Juniper Prize from the University of Massachusetts. He divides his time between Florida and Oregon.
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