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The Optimist: Poems

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Nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, The Optimist stares at contemporary darkness visible, a darkly lit tableau that erases the boundary between the world and the perceiving self. Whether narrative or lyric, dramatic or satirical, Mehigan's poems explore death, desire, and change with a mixture of reason and compassion. There are echoes in The Optimist of Frost, Robinson, Kees, and Justice; and more in terms of point of view, Bishop and Jarrell.In Joshua Mehigan's award-winning poetry, one encounters a lucid, resolute vision driven by an amazing facility with the metrical line. Most of the poems in The Optimist unapologetically employ traditional poetic technique, and, in each of these, Mehigan stretches the fabric of living language over a framework of regular meter to produce a compelling sonic counterpoint.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Something of the energy, the savagery and emotional fierceness of Robert Lowell's early poems are to be found in this impressive book by Joshua Mehigan. These poems are often wound tight as spring, and are concentrations of violent feelings and visions of cruelty, yet uttered in a language quietly brilliant, as well as undeniably powerful."—Anthony Hecht

The Optimist, by Joshua Mehigan, is remarkable for its mastery of form and of tone. Mr. Mehigan is Frost-like in the way he plays speech rhythms against the patters of verse, creating a tense, deceptively simple music….”—Adam Kirsch, The New York Sun

“This is a poet with absolutely no reliance on madness or on romantic mismatch between himself and the world, and he should, at the very least, be able to keep doing what he’s doing as impressively as he has been doing it, which is awfully impressively.”—Poetry

“Mehigan is already the sort of poet who gives you lines you want to write down and remember…. There’s nothing old-fashioned about rhyme and meter when they’re used with mastery. Reader, Joshua Mehigan’s poetry is a passionate pursuit of the real.”—The Hudson Review

"Joshua Mehigan’s The Optimist, though a first book, is already the work of a master coming into his unique own. Mehigan writes with a deep and alarming calmness that derives directly from his mastery, and his poems shine with luminous strangeness. The Optimist possesses the mysterious vision and power of great art.”—Andrew Hudgins

There is more insight into domestic grief in these and other poems in The Optimist than in a dozen louder, more overtly confessional books. And that sense of insight born from experience is what makes Mehigan’s work so moving and impressive. Few American poets, old or young, seem to know so much.”—Contemporary Poetry Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821416129
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 72
  • Sales rank: 1,446,742
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.17 (d)

Meet the Author

Joshua Mehigan was born in upstate New York in 1969. Since 1993 he has lived in New York City and worked as an editor and English teacher. Published in many journals, including the Chattahoochee Review, Dogwood, The Formalist, Pequod, Ploughshares, Poetry, The Sewanee Review, and Verse, his poems and translations are also forthcoming in anthologies from Word Press and Zoo Press. His poems have won the Dogwood Poetry Contest and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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Table of Contents

Promenade 3
Two new fish 5
A questionable mother 6
The house swap 7
The umbrella man 8
The spectacle 9
An ideal passion 10
A bird at the leather mill 11
In the home of my sitter 12
Deja vu 14
Past bedtime 15
The tyrant 16
After last call 17
Riddle 18
Imperative of the minor Florentine chapel 19
Another Pygmalion 20
The swan song 22
The murder 23
Progress 24
Post partum 25
War dims hopes for peace 26
"If ye find my beloved ..." 27
The optimist 28
Confusing weather 29
A changed familiar tree 30
Our ancient sire 33
A cellar in Pankow 34
The birthday gift 35
A contract 36
The abject bed 37
Last moments of Simeon Stylites 38
The festival 39
Runaway daughter 40
Introduction to poetry 41
The story of the week 42
Last chance at reconciliation 43
After a nightmare 44
The suicide 45
A broken home 46
Schism by twilight 47
Family gathering 48
Buzzards 49
Alexandra 50
A lot of noise 52
Dystopian 53
Retirement 54
The pig roast 55
The mayor 56
Rabbit's foot 57
Merrily 58
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