Now That My Father Lies down beside Me: New and Selected Poems, 1970-2000

Now That My Father Lies down beside Me: New and Selected Poems, 1970-2000

by Stanley Plumly
     
 

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Thirty years of visionary verse from one of America's most memorable lyric poets.

From the pastoral to the familial, from the mundane to the transcendent, Now That My Father Lies Down Beside Me: New and Selected Poems, 1970-2000 is a musical, multifaceted, and deeply moving series of poems, presenting a panoramic view of Plumly

Overview

Thirty years of visionary verse from one of America's most memorable lyric poets.

From the pastoral to the familial, from the mundane to the transcendent, Now That My Father Lies Down Beside Me: New and Selected Poems, 1970-2000 is a musical, multifaceted, and deeply moving series of poems, presenting a panoramic view of Plumly's three decades of poetic inquiry.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Selecting from six collections spanning 30 years, this well-focused collection starts off with new poems and works backwards, forming a single unbroken arc that nicely maps Plumly's poetic obsessions: a drunk father, avine fauna and city vagrants, and meditations on larger-than-life figures like Keats and friends like William Matthews. A pre-modernist aesthetic predominates, moving through a gamut of forms from blank to metrical verse, and the whole is suffused with an elegiac tone that is always credible if rarely surprising. Most of the poems stick to hushed description; earlier ones, like "For Esther" or the title poem, are more willing to make additive leaps: "There is no star in the sky of this room,/ only the light fashioning fish along the walls./ They swim and swallow one another." At least two poems ("Souls of Suicides as Birds" and "Cedar Waxwing on Scarlet Firethorn") join birdsong to human grief in an ecstatic swoon: "before the trees--/ to be alive in secret, this is what/ we wanted, and here, as when we die what/ lives is fluted on the air." Plumly's poems are, without exception, exceptionally well-made, though the pathos-of-my-labors that drives poems like "Complaint Against the Arsonist" ("This pyrrhic fire the barn burned down and blew back/ into the dust-weight of its carbon barn I spent the summer part-time painting ") can seem a little shopworn. Often enough, however, something ravenous emerges, as in the free-verse "Woman on Twenty-Second Eating Berries," a poem that weaves together many of Plumly's leitmotifs. There, the title persona feasts on "Poor grapes, poor crabs,/ wild black cherry trees, on which some forty-six/ or so species of birds have fed, some boy's dead/ weight or the tragic summer lightning killing/ the seed." (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Throughout this accomplished poet's previous six books, the presence of his father, who died in 1973 of complications of alcoholism at the age of 56, has been very real. In an interview in the Iowa Review (Fall, 1973), Plumly commented, "I can hardly think of a poem I've written that at some point in its history did not implicate, or figure, my father." This latest collection, which includes many poems published in earlier collections (including the book's final poem) as well as some new ones, brings the father's presence into the book's title for the first time: "Whatever two we were, we become/ one falling body, one breath." Plumly, who has taught at the University of Houston and the University of Maryland, College Park, writes in an accessible style, dreamlike though rooted in reality, musical, graceful, but with an eerily tragic undercurrent: "and when we drive along the white glide of the river,/ the high wheat grass like water in the wind,/ someone in joy running from the house,/ the story is already breaking down." Highly recommended.--Judy Clarence, California State Univ., Hayward Lib. CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
Plumly (English/Univ. of Maryland) has published six prior volumes. Here he includes new as well as previously published work, collected in reverse chronological order and covering the span of three decades. The poems proceed diminuendo rather than crescendo from his matured style to his origins, and the effect is cumulative (much like the numerous snowfalls he describes) rather than astonishing. Seldom does anything appear in full light. Plumly gains our attention slowly and subtly, preferring patient layering to the drama of sharp relief (as when he portrays his gravely ill parents with "skeletal skin so ghostly it seemed they'd already gone"). Plumly's landscapes, for all their underpinnings in concrete detail, seem at times like sets in a Fellini movie: softly falling snow, birds, suicides, and blossoming red roses, with flashes of insight that burn the retinas and leave an afterimage even more surreal. Though only slightly less lyrical than poems from the same period, there are several short prose passages that create as strong an impression of time and place as anything in literature. Particularly poignant are Plumly's childhood recollections of his father's lifelong drinking career—precisely because Plumly's father appears as a decent man. He is but one of the recurring characters "cloistered in the space of their own wounding." One could easily wish this collection featured more examples of Plumly's powerful prose and fewer of his often unremarkable pastorals—which quickly begin to blur together. But the collection as a whole is worthwhile.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060938055
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
12/01/2001
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

Grievers

Like some dreams, they appear, then reappear,
cloistered in the space of their own wounding,
their public mourning, their gravity's gray coat.
Even at a distance, as if drawn by being seen,
they come straight at you, the almost-elegant woman
in the aisle, the tall young birdlike silent
weeping man. And no one need have died, no one
you know, to know their voices and half-faces,
the scent of the spirit passing, for whom blood
on the door or blessing means nothing. But, then,
everyone died or didn't, who calls to you in sleep
after your back is turned. In the parable,
like the dream, you're all the characters,
though come the day, in real life, you must choose.

Meet the Author

Stanley Plumly was born in Barnesville, Ohio, in 1939, and grew up in the lumber and farming regions of Virginia and Ohio. His work has been honored with the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award and nominations for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and the Academy of Amerian Poets' Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. He is currently a Distinguished University Professor and Professor of English at the University of Maryland.

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