My Father Says Grace: Poems

Overview


In his third collection, My Father Says Grace, Donald Platt combines elegy with verse of larger historical allusion and reference. At the center of the book stand poems detailing a father’s stroke and slowly developing Alzheimer’s disease and how it affects one family. An extended meditation on a mother-in-law’s dying provides counterpoint to elegies for more public figures like Walt Whitman and Janis Joplin. The private life in “the valley of the shadow of death” often gets juxtaposed with explicitly political ...
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Overview


In his third collection, My Father Says Grace, Donald Platt combines elegy with verse of larger historical allusion and reference. At the center of the book stand poems detailing a father’s stroke and slowly developing Alzheimer’s disease and how it affects one family. An extended meditation on a mother-in-law’s dying provides counterpoint to elegies for more public figures like Walt Whitman and Janis Joplin. The private life in “the valley of the shadow of death” often gets juxtaposed with explicitly political verse. One of these poems records the racially charged conversations in a small southern town’s Amazing Grace Beauty Salon. Another describes a Vietnam protestor, famously photographed while sticking flowers in an MP’s gun barrel, alongside images from his later life as a transvestite. The poems tend to find themselves in the midst of crisis, historical or personal. They yearn for “transport” and strive “to be ‘carried across,’ away, out, toward, back into / / some new country / where the soul improvises, croons scat to itself alone.”
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This is a book of the highest lyric ambitions. Almost every poem, however plain-spoken its subject, sets itself challenges of language and order which are met head on. On almost every page there is a marvelous to-and-fro between darkness of loss—a father’s approaching death, a brother’s vulnerability—and the exuberance of language, the sheer eloquence of organization which are no less than their due. These are wonderful poems; they make superb, wrenching reading.” —Eavan Boland, author of Outside History: Selected Poems, 1980–1990 and Domestic Violence “Donald Platt’s poems are fearless and generous aria-narratives, each distilling complex essences into a single, telling scene; through their attentive particularities, universal colors emerge. The abiding affirmation in Donald Platt’s work is that whatever exists must be made welcome and known. The result is an optimistic book, full of compassion, interest, and sheen, in an age when an unblended optimism is much needed.” —Jane Hirshfield, author of Given Sugar, Given Salt and After “Grief-struck and world-adoring, these poems—in their gorgeous and distinctive swelling and contracting tercets—say grace for a family struggling with a father's stroke and dementia, a brother's Down syndrome, a mother-in-law's terminal cancer. My Father Says Grace constructs its layer on layer of elegy in a fugue-like structure, with tenderness, humor, and startling intimacy. Platt's poems move beyond the personal circumstances of illness, loss, and proleptic grief toward something like an autobiographical metaphysics, meditating unflinchingly on a world of aging, death, and loss and saying, in its own devastating way, yes and amen.” --Bruce Beasley, author of Lord Brain and The Corpse
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557288370
  • Publisher: University of Arkansas Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 95
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Donald Platt is an associate professor of English at Purdue University. His previous collections, Fresh Peaches, Fireworks, & Guns and Cloud Atlas, were published by Purdue University Press as winners of the Verna Emery Poetry Prize. He is a recipient of the “Discovery”/The Nation Prize, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Center for Book Arts’ Poetry Chapbook Prize, and two Pushcart Prizes. His poems have appeared in many magazines and journals, including The New Republic, Nation, Paris Review, Poetry, Kenyon Review, Georgia Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Field, Iowa Review, Southwest Review, and Southern Review, and have been anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2000 and 2006. He lives with his wife, the poet Dana Roeser, and their two daughters in West Lafayette, Indiana.
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Table of Contents


Sizzling Happy Family     3
Joy     6
My Father Says Grace     8
Brother Death, Sister Life     11
Ash Wednesday     17
Summer Arrhythmias     20
Turtle with the World on Its Back     22
Compass Rose     25
Treble and Treble and Back     35
Killing the Minotaur     38
Mirage     42
Victor Talking Machine Co.     44
Sundowning Exit-Seeker     49
Name & Address     53
Walt Whitman Wrestling Naked with the Young Trees     55
After     58
For Janis Joplin with Pink Feather Boa in the Clouds at the Edge of the Atlantic Ocean     60
Pretty Boy, Rifle Barrels, Carnations     65
Setting Sun     69
Snapshot     73
Andantino Cantabile with Double Rainbow     74
Cartwheels     77
Amazing Grace Beauty Salon     80
Two Poets Meet     84
Red Door     86
Ground Transport     90
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2007

    An Intensely Human Volume

    The first poem in this new collection by Donald Platt is like an atlas, mapping out for the reader the territory that we are to explore in this volume of twenty-six poems with Platt serving as our most capable guide. That territory includes poems about family, loss, death, sickness, Down¿s Syndrome, Alzheimer¿s, love, joy¿the actual stuff of which our lives consist. This is an intensely human volume of poetry. In the title poem, a father who has suffered a stroke says grace which comes out as ¿utter gibberish. ¿His fuses all blown¿¿ as his wife remarks. It illuminates not only the suffering of the diseased but the weariness and anger of those left to care for them. Other poems deal with the poet¿s brother who has Down¿s Syndrome. Donald Platt continuously reminds us of our vulnerability as organisms. Despite the exposure of our emotions and mind to the world¿s trials, it is ultimately the body that keeps us standing and moving through life. One misfiring of our internal engine shatters whatever preoccupations that keep us from living fully. ¿¿A spot on the lungs,¿¿ and a new country / opens before you.¿ This book reminds me of a beginning exercise in Yoga when you are asked to breathe in and out, emptying your mind of everything, and focusing only on your breath. ¿¿the day distilled to two small words, I am, I am¿¿

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