In Defense of Nothing: Selected Poems, 1987-2011

In Defense of Nothing: Selected Poems, 1987-2011

by Peter Gizzi

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A new lyricism for the twenty-first centurySee more details below


A new lyricism for the twenty-first century

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
One of the more prominent voices in contemporary American poetry, Gizzi (Threshold Songs) works in a style that is as innovative as it is singular and unique. These poems, taken from five different collections, are in places comedic and playful, elsewhere elegiac and devastatingly honest, reflecting a careful approach to form and a finely tuned musical ear. Much of the work tends to stack its images, oscillating between the concrete and the ethereal as it gains momentum: “The heart of poetry,” Gizzi writes in “Pierced,” “is fatigue/ what the teachers left unsaid/ a whimpering man inside the child,” but also “a skinny leg inside a blown out shoe/ at the side of the ocean.” Throughout, moments of self-consciousness emerge, interrogating the capability of language in representing experience. In “Revival,” an elegiac call to Gregory Corso, the voice declares: “I was talking about rending, reading, rewriting/ what is seen.../ I want an art that can say what I am feeling.” Gizzi’s poetry is “silly with clarity,” infused with a restless vernacular that can elevate the mundane while making the impossible tangible. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
“As elegant as they are profound, these poems represent close to 25 years of work. In this substantial volume, Gizzi regales us with minimalist narrative, long lyrics and prose poems which are studies in human perception. Gizzi’s central theme is how the human mind converts objects and lived experiences into poetry. For Gizzi, poetry itself is a field of human experience…. As a whole, Gizzi’s “In Defense of Nothing” affirms the notion that poetry is a form of salvation for those who are willing to do the hard work of turning perceptions into the “second tongue we call grammar.” It is a book worthy of all who love art and all who love to express themselves through poetry.”
—Sonja James, The Journal

“Gizzi’s poetry is ‘silly with clarity,’ infused with a restless vernacular that can elevate the mundane while making the impossible tangible.”
—Publisher’s Weekly

“In Defense of Nothing Selected Poems 1987-2011splendidly champions Gizzi as a major force in the ever-expanding vastness of the poetry world. His well-earned spot as an integral influential force of our time is thus firmly staked out.”
—Patrick James Dunagan, Bookslut

“(T)this collection is a well-curated cross-section of a career that has always resisted categorization, borrowing from lyric, narrative, and avant-garde traditions. … Gizzi (is) a poet whose interest lies in articulating his experience of the world in all its disorienting glory.”
—American Poets

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Product Details

Wesleyan University Press
Publication date:
Wesleyan Poetry Series
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Barnes & Noble
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2 MB

What People are saying about this

Ben Lerner
“Peter Gizzi’s poetry at once captures the deadening, and the standardization of our culture and wakes us up, makes us ‘silly with clarity.’ Through his poetry we become almost painfully attuned to the present. He can name with precision our medicated, mediated insensibility and then startle us out of anesthesia with the beauty of his singing. Gizzi can move from the ghostly, flickering edge of perceptibility to focused intensity at disorienting, Dickinsonian speed. His poetry is an example of how a poet’s total, tonal attention can disclose orders of sensation and meaning. His beautiful lines are full of deft archival allusion, and his influences range from Simonides to Schuyler, but those voices, those prosodies, aren’t ever decorative; Gizzi is gathering from the air a live tradition.”
Adrienne Rich
“Peter Gizzi’s disturbing lyricism is like no other—the innermost whir of the daily curtain rising on outer catastrophe . . . we are ‘listening to a life / un-lived any other way”—unmistakably, as poetry.”

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