Save the Last Dance

Save the Last Dance

by Gerald Stern

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The fifteenth collection by a celebrated poet whose "terrific, boisterous energy has never flagged" (Megan Harlan, San Francisco Chronicle).


The fifteenth collection by a celebrated poet whose "terrific, boisterous energy has never flagged" (Megan Harlan, San Francisco Chronicle).

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Honored for his plainspoken, blue-collar manner-its honesty, and the literary learning it belies-Stern, born in 1925, is now writing his strongest, strangest poems. Like 2005's Everything Is Burning, this collection displays passionate attachments-to daily pleasures, poets living and dead whom Stern has befriended (especially in a warm elegy for William Matthews) and memory itself. In 1946, one poem remembers, "I was a bellows/ and one by one my lungs were ruined but I wouldn't/ change my life, what for?" The short poems mostly comprise single, extended sentences, piling up Stern's gruff loves and recollections faster than death and old age can knock them down: a poem about a weather vane finds Stern "amazed/ that we could last the way we do compared to/ birds just blown by the wind." The scenes in this 17th collection come from his youth in Philadelphia and New York City, and from exurban New Jersey, where he lives now. The final section, a long poem in dialogue form entitled "The Preacher," imagines a conversation with the younger poet Peter Richards, whose subjects include Kant, Mingus, the uses of anger and the variety of wildflowers; it may not stick in many readers' memories, but the short poems before it certainly will. (May)

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Library Journal

"She was a darling with her roses, though what I/ like is lavender for I can dry it and/ nothing is blue like that,/ so here I am,/ in my arms a bouquet of tragic lavender,/ the whole history of Southern France against my/ chest." Stern (This Time) has become a master of rich, intimately personal poems that strike at universal chords but do so with surprise, intelligence, and wry humor. With a deft though sometimes mischievous hand, he crafts scenes that are at once exotic and familiar: "He was dead so he was only a puff/ of smoke at the most and I had to labor to see him/ or just to hear and when we spoke it was as/ if we were waiting in the rain together." The short, personal lyrics in the first two sections are balanced against a long poem of meditation, "The Preacher," which begins with the book of Ecclesiastes and in dialog, real and imagined, with his friend Peter and considers loss, futility, and emptiness, the "hole" that exists when what was is not anymore: "As if the one tree you love so well and hardly/ can embrace it is so huge so that with-/ out it there might be a hole in the universe/ explains how the killing of any one thing can/ likewise make a hole." Highly recommended.
—Louis McKee

“Stern writes with a gruff, seen-it-all knowingness and with the distillation, leaps, and pivots acquired over a long life of poetic practice.”

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)

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Meet the Author

Gerald Stern is the author of the National Book Award-winning This Time, the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize-winning Early Selected Poems, and other books. He has also been awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the National Jewish Book Award, the Wallace Stevens Award, and the Robert Frost Medal, among many other honors. He lives in Lambertville, New Jersey.

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