Northernersby Seth Abramson
In James Armstrong's pellucid poetry the drifting of autumn leaves shares space with the baroque architecture of nineteenth century England. A woman peruses a book of pharmaceuticals in a coffee shop looking for hints of happiness. And a naked woman wearing hip boots stares out of the 1940s in a photograph hung in a Michigan bar. Twilight is always moving the shadows of our urban lives out toward the country, our inherited past, where a deer or a heron waits like an angel glimpsed through the fog. Armstrong's poems elucidate the mystery and beauty of borders– temporal and historical, as well as geographical– while his pastoral sensibility floods our senses with images of the natural world, seemingly stopping time, edifying us, and helping us–for a few moments anyway–to transcend our enervated contemporary lives. Reading this book is like diving into a deep lake. It cleanses the soul.
“This book will get a lot of well-deserved attention. A former public defender in New Hampshire and now a graduate student in Wisconsin, Abramson has picked up a very large following as a blogger and commentator, covering poetry, politics, and higher education, and generating a controversial, U.S. News–style ranking of graduate programs in writing. After all that, what's left for the poetry? Plenty: serious and ambitious, full of torqued proverbs and hard-to-follow advice, Abramson's own work shows a poet uncommonly interested in general statements, in hard questions, and harder answers, about how to live: "Everyone knows what not to do/ in a dream," he warns, "and in a dream everyone has the heart/ to tell you who you are." Waking life, he implies, turns out harsher, and stranger. Abramson's work as an attorney impinges on several memorable poems: "the worst/ is meeting those people you know/ you can do nothing for." American regions—the Upper Midwest, Boston, northern New England—also draw attention, and sometimes ire. Ultimately, though, Abramson's taut phrases show a personality, sometimes welcoming, and sometimes grimacing, at a tough, lovely, often inhospitable world: "It is not too early for us// to turn our backs on the track," he advises, before announcing "YES—// there is no secret self—/ but still/ I follow it everywhere.”—Publishers Weekly
- New Issues Poetry & Prose, Western Michigan University
- Publication date:
- Green Rose Series
- Product dimensions:
- 5.90(w) x 9.60(h) x 0.30(d)
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Meet the Author
JAMES ARMSTRONG grew up in Portage, Michigan. Armstrong is the author of Monument of a Summer Hat (New Issues) and Blue Lash (Milkweed Editions). His poems have appeared in Triquarterly, Gulf Coast, Orion, The Snowy Egret, the New York Times Book Review, Shade, and elsewhere. Armstrong received the PEN-New England Discovery Prize for poetry in 1996, and he has been awarded an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in poetry and a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship in poetry. He is currently a professor of English at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota.
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