Theory of Devolution: Poems

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"He wonders if they were lovers. Did the lovers burn?" These and other questions about gay men in America just before and during the age of AIDS animate the passionately descriptive and often elegiac poems of David Groff's Theory of Devolution, selected for this year's National Poetry Series by Mark Doty. Doty's own admirers will surely warm to Groff's accomplishments, which include evocations of Manhattan, Fire Island and rural America; high-powered recollections of the party circuit; well-placed activist slogans; and movingly personal, erotic memorials to an "always-dying particular man." Groff helped found the Publishing Triangle, an association of book-business lesbians and gay men.
Library Journal
"A star the size of the sun exploded yesterday/ 150 light years ago or away." In this first collection of his poetry, Groff (coauthor, The Crisis of Desire: AIDS and the Fate of Gay Brotherhood) understands his own insignificance in this frail universe, seen in the devolution of things: "the peony unpetaled over time." Still, he finds himself in the middle of it all, an articulate witness, a participant. These poems are reports from the hot center, hard and honest accounts of life in the midst of a sad and deadly nightmare. They confront the horrid effects of AIDS and HIV. They weigh grief and loss and calculate the tenuous prospect of survival. Talk of an "epidemic" and "crisis" has dropped down to a whisper. The ghosts of the dead populate these poems, and their stories give them voice, however fragile: "Even Ron's voice which I thought as sure/ and recurrent as a siren or Ella Fitzgerald/ decays into static." Each account is more harrowing than the last. Yet Groff loves "the whole idea of love," and it shows in his sweet and passionate imagery. He is sensitive but still objective, compassionate but not sentimental. From the raucous rituals of Fire Island to the settled and familial peace of Chelsea, Groff maps a world coming slowly undone, "like all of Fire Island we erode, a sandbar lessened into sand/ the water easily absconds with." For all contemporary poetry collections. Louis McKee, Painted Bride Arts Ctr., Philadelphia Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780252070860
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2002
  • Series: The National Poetry Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 104
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Table of Contents

Theory of Devolution 3
Last Moon 7
Fall 9
Proving Ground 11
A Scene of the Crime 13
Gloria 16
Laugh 17
Picture of Health 19
Old Pornography 21
Adultery with Jesse Gerstein 23
Swing 25
The Guy with the Bathing Suit Around His Neck 27
Ron Dies 29
Leaving the Farm 33
No Answers for French Fred 35
Terror 37
Trickster Video 38
Birthing 40
Ron's Been Dead Four Years 41
Memory 43
Daisy Buchanan, 1985 44
John Beyond 46
The Crabmeat Pickers 48
Sympathy, 1967 49
Near Relations 50
O Brother 57
Addison Groff Chooses the Ministry 59
Laundry 61
Hospital Garbage, 1968 63
Life Mask of Tom 65
Your Headache 67
The Watchdyke 69
Naming Constellations 70
For Catching Hardshell Crabs 72
Facing East Near Big Sur 73
The Sense of Well-Being 75
The Saddle River 76
Personal Land 78
Magnitudes 83
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