The prolific Lux (The Street of Clocks) should please but may not surprise his many admirers with this 11th book, accessible and surrealist-influenced. Lux begins on a personal note, with a sentimental elegy for the New England poet and critic Peter Davison, "the gentleman who spoke like music." By the end of the book, though, he has depicted little of his external life, few facts and stories about himself, and yet revealed a whole personality through dreamlike scenes, jokes and a persistent grimness. In "The Republic of Anesthesia," evolution creates "arid hairsplitting" amid cruelty, as "One frog eats another frog." Lux favors an unobtrusively fluent free verse, whose motions and line breaks focus less on sound than on image and tone. Reminiscent sometimes of a darker Billy Collins, sometimes of an easier-to-follow James Tate, Lux mixes deep gloom with a broad sense of humor, confessing his "Autobiographophobia" ("I will not confide/ my serial poisoning of parakeets"), contemplating "black thoughts... remedyless and truculent," depicting an ideal library beside a nightmarish zoo or musing on dilemmas few of us will ever face: "How Difficult/ for the quadriplegics to watch/ the paraplegics play." (Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
God Particlesby Thomas Lux
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God Particles displays the distinctive originality and unpredictability that prompted the Washington Post Book World to name Lux one of this generation’s most gifted poets. A satiric edge, tempered by profound compassion, cuts through many of the poems in Lux’s book. While themes of intolerance, inhumanity, loss, and a deep sense of mortality mark these poems, a lighthearted grace instills even the somberest moments with unexpected sweetness. In the title poem Lux writes, “there’s no reason for God to feel guilt / I think He was downhearted, weary, too weary / to be angry anymore . . . / He wanted each of us, / and all the things we touch . . . / to have a tiny piece of Him / though we are unqualified, / of even the crumb of a crumb.” Dark, humorous, and strikingly imaginative, this is Lux’s most compassionate work to date.
"Another autumn/ in which the world hates itself so much," observes Kingsley Tufts Award winner Lux in his latest collection (following The Cradle Place). Indeed, it's a hard, hard world Lux portrays; the first song sung by humans celebrates the felling of an animal, people anticipating the harvest must still husband meager sources, and there's even a poem called "The Lead Hour" featuring stone shoes, a steel wallet, and a city block of ice. And the persona haunting the poems is nothing if not unsentimental; he wishes the hummingbird wasn't so noisy and shoots peacocks at twilight, perhaps because they're "meretricious," perhaps "to hear and see the peahen weep." But oddly the poems don't come across as nasty, sour, cynical, or unduly dark; instead, the voice is honest-there's implacable acceptance of an implacably tough world and a real impatience with fuss and froufrou. At one point, the speaker wishes Proust would get over the madeleine, already, and realize the world of emotion neatly packed into one last line in a letter: "It breaks my heart/ that I am going to forget you." Lux has a fresh and original voice, and his new collection refines his strengths. For all contemporary poetry collections.
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Read an Excerpt
The Gentleman Who Spoke Like Music for Peter Davison, 1928–2004
was kind to me though he did not have to be.
Who brought into the world a thousand books.
(Right there: a life well lived.) Who wrote a dozen or so himself, some prose about others, some his own poems.
(Right there: a life lived well!) Who corrected my spelling, gently, and my history too, who once or twice a year would buy me lunch and later let me leave his office with shopping bags of books to read.
Who wore a bowtie sometimes, and a vest, I think even a hanky in his jacket pocket.
Who was generous to me, the gentleman who spoke like music, who was kind to me though he did not have to be.
The Hungry Gap-Time,
late August, before the harvest, every one of us worn down by the plow, the hoe, rake, and worry over rain.
Chicken coop confiscated by the rats and the raptors with nary a mouse to hunt. The corn’s too green and hard, and the larder’s down to dried apples and double-corned cod. We lie on our backs and stare at the blue; our work is done, our bellies flat.
The mold on the wheat killed hardly a sheaf.
The lambs fatten on the grass, our pigs we set to forage on their ownthey’ll be back when they whiff the first shucked ears of corn. Albert’s counting bushels in his head to see if there’s enough to ask Harriet’s father for her hand. Harriet’s father is thinking about Harriet’s mother’s bread pudding. The boys and girls splash in the creek, which is low but cold. Soon, soon there will be food again, and from what our hands have done we shall live another year here by the river in the valley above the fault line beneath the mountain.
Lump of Sugar on an Anthill
The dumb ants hack and gnaw it off grain by grain and haul it down to the chamber where they keep such things to feed their queen and young. The smart ants dig another entrance, wait for rain.
Which melts the sugar, and through viaducts they direct it to their nurseries, the old ants’ home, the unantennaed ward, and so onthe good little engineering ants!
The dumb ants have to eat their sugar dry.
Put your ear to a dumb ant’s anthill’s holemandibles on sandpaper is what you’ll hear.
The dumb ants pray it doesn’t rain before they’ve done their task, or else they will drownin sweetness, but drown, nonetheless.
Peacocks in Twilight
I think not, because I’ll shoot both his eyes out with one bullet. Lest you think I advocate the blinding of peacocks in twilight, I don’t: to shoot both eyes out shoots out, too, his frontal lobe, ergo, the bird is dead, blind in one eye for a split second maybe, but dead, bird brain dead. I’ll do this from the porch on a summer evening, a pitcher of lemonade on my left. Though I dislike doilies, I’ll place one of Mother’s under the pitcher. She insisted on that, and my sister too. I’ll use my daddy’s gun.
Daddy didn’t like peacocks in twilight either, they offended an iron aesthetic of his, something to do with loathing cheap beauty, the meretricious, which I must have inherited, or else I love to hear and see the peahens weep.
accompanied by bees banging the screen, blind to it between them and the blooms on the sill, I turn pages, just as desperate as they to get where I am going.
Earlier, I tried to summon my nervous friend, a hummingbird, with sugar water. The ants got there first.
Now, one shrill bird makes its noise too often, too close: ch-pecha, ch-pecha-pecha.
If he’d eat the caterpillars (in sizes S to XXL!) eating my tomatoes, we could live as neighbors, but why can’t he keep quiet like the spiders and snakes?
I spoke to an exterminator once who said he’d poison birds but he didn’t want me to write about it. I have not until now, and now starts up that black genius, the crow, who is answered by the blue bully, the ubiquitous, the utterly American, jay.
The Shooting Zoo
The giraffe can’t stand up anymore: he’s still tall but not tall enough. The silverback is bald, the zebra’s black stripes gray. There’s a virus at the zoo: the springbok can’t prong, the alligators wracked by cataracts, the last lion meowls like an auntie’s cat.
The penguins walk as if they have a load in their pants!
The vultures are eating sandwiches and plants!
Something’s wrong with all the animals: the pandas obstreperous, the iguanas demand bananas, the loons are out of tune.
What to do, what to do? Soon, whatever it is that’s deranging them will pass through their bars, across their moats, and then: our dogs and goldfish, the little parakeet who pecks our lips so we may say it kisses us, soon they’ll start dropping too.
Next: our children? grandma?
The zookeepers don’t know what to do, so print some permits permitting men to bring their guns to the shooting zoo.
His thoughts like a deck of cards hit by a howitzer. As they were only pieces of thoughts in the first place, thoughts without a beginning, middle, or end, they are now more torn, bits of red and black and white. Other shards of the puzzle in his head: some of blue sky, others a treetop, another one a bird’s foot, yellow. And piles of graystreaked with creamgranite. These seem as if they belong in the same scene, but look at this one: a loopy piece of black, and more and more of them, all black. Half the puzzle unbroken black!
Where does the blackness meet the bird’s foot (two toes with visible talons), and the treetops, and what must be skyblue, with wisps of white?
What is the blackness thinking about the whole mountain of blackness, soon to rise over the aforementioned granite mountain, remedyless and truculent?
A Clearing, a Meadow, in Deep Forest
One lies down in the meadow, one hears the insects saw and gnaw in the grass, and above, one hears some music from childhood, sees a barn swallow diving.
One has these thoughts, stricken. Clouds hang above the meadow’show did this clearing occur?ragged treeline. How did it happen, its edges irregular, not cut for a field of even rye or oats? When one first breaks into it, the clearing, one thinks: not large enough for a farm, this fodder couldn’t feed four cows.
One walks halfway across and sits down, stricken. This is the place to rest, one thinks, in the meadow’s middle, this is the place to stop and wait for the wind, or a star, or a vole’s nose to point one on one’s way.
Meet the Author
THOMAS LUX holds the Bourne Chair in Poetry and is the director of the McEver Visiting Writers Program at Georgia Institute of Technology. He has been awarded three NEA grants and the Kingsley Tufts Award and is a former Guggenheim Fellow. He lives in Atlanta.
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This book is amazing. Lux is shocking and witty. He takes ideas we don't normally think about, like "The Utopian Wars" and turns them on their heads.