Where's the Moon, There's the Moon: Poems


With “the easy charm of a natural New England oracle” (The Huffington Post), Dan Chiasson brings us poems of young fatherhood, love, and loss that, in his able hands, become existential examinations.
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Where's the Moon, There's the Moon

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With “the easy charm of a natural New England oracle” (The Huffington Post), Dan Chiasson brings us poems of young fatherhood, love, and loss that, in his able hands, become existential examinations.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“These poems refract the sober realities of middle age, in particular the joys and anxieties of fatherhood and grief at the deaths of friends or parents.”—The New York Review of Books
Publishers Weekly
In his third book, Chiasson continues his exploration of the places where older high culture meets contemporary culture, both high and popular. In this case, his poems quote from or mirror works by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Emily Dickinson, and Henry David Thoreau, among others; the long title poem is centered around the classic children's story “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.” The book explores fatherhood—both in terms of Chiasson's own father and his children. In the title poem, a story read to his children illuminates “my father's distance and yet the tendency of distant things/ to become central.” Distance and death are ever-present, as in the book's first poem: “Here follows the phone number of a dead person,” writes Chiasson. A series of short, aphoristic pieces at the book's conclusion tries to stave off endings through “hide and seek: the magic trick/ of keeping time in play by yo-yo/ mini-episodes of loss and recovery.” In between are poems of formal variety and accessible speech that are equal parts mournful and hopeful: “If you surround yourself with sadness, you seem happy,” reads a line from “Monitor”; “Roman Song” offers another note: “Let everything you eat be your good food.” (Mar.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375711862
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/20/2011
  • Pages: 88
  • Sales rank: 1,074,611
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Dan Chiasson, a poetry editor at The Paris Review and the recipient of numerous awards, is the author of two previous collections of poetry and a book of criticism. He teaches at Wellesley College and lives in Sherborn, Massachusetts.
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Read an Excerpt


A Story for Children

(the opening)


If I look to the opposite shore and greet myself there,
if I call out to myself come here
and watch myself laboriously construct from shore-things a boat, and watch myself over the waters come rowing,
but, crossing the midpoint between shores,
out in the middle of the colorless lake,
no longer approaching, no longer coming closer,
disappear, where am I now, has my boat capsized?


Infinite capacity for love in the smallest detail;
infinite suffering in the innermost reality;
large mind in even the dumbest, mutest object;
destiny in an object that stands still;
heart in the middle of the grey, motionless water;
the largest sadness in the world in a groaning buoy;
in a buoy and the bird overhead, huge sadness,
and yet I hop from place to place as though I’m weightless.


When I picture my father I see the surface of the moon,
plains of moon-stuff, chalk-dust papers shredded by a paper-shredder, snowbanks of shredded paper,
nobody to organize it all, no way to “moralize the day out of its aimlessness,” nobody with a Shop-Vac handy slowly to turn the whiteness into pattern and form,
revealing, as a chisel reveals in the marble,
a figure, a woman’s figure, an expression of bliss—


Now that that big nonentity the moon is in my mind the clichés for representing earth are hereby banished—
a hundred open-ended poems, abrupt transitions, high tones grating against the low, unsorted experience;
sex beside the holy man defiled by sex,
the pig pile of ways you can get high, right there beside the dawn and how you badly want to kill yourself,
the fleer, the road that unravels like a banner before him—


And the child’s attention fixed upon the animal book,
and all the animals in the book intent upon dinner or eyeing some harbinger cloud forever, permanently dejected because some little stone turned their child to stone, weeping big mule or owl tears as though the child never turned the page, the sun never shone again bringing larkspurs, gentian, and the mule-boy reunited with mule mommy and daddy just in time to end,


but the mule on page four will always be sad, the owl overhead will always mourn for the mule in his sadness,
nobody will ever bring news of page eleven when mule-boy returns from the dead, and the child reading the book will always preside like a sinister god over these animals,
always dipping in and out of their moods like a snacker,
a little sadness to tide you over until suppertime,
a little elegiac owl, some time at the grief picnic . . .

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

I Swifts

Here Follows an Account of the Nature of Birds 3

Aquarium 4

Mosaic of a Hare, Corinium, 100 AD 5

Swifts 7

1 Fist 7

2 Thread 8

3 Wind 9

4 Tree 10

5 Cause 11

6 Effect 12

7 Needle's Eye 13

8 Sound, 2 A.M. 14

9 Swifts 15

10 Caress 16

Roman Song 17

A Posy 18

"When Spring Opens ..." 19

Etruscan Song 21

Monitor 22

Man and Derailment 23

Skylab 24

Satellites 25

1 Banquette 25

2 Bullet 26

3 Night Scene 27

4 Orbit 28

5 Next 29

6 Coleridge 30

7 Bluet 31

8 Abstruser Musings 32

9 Blake 33

Lincoln's Dream 34

Train 35

II Where's the Moon, There's the Moon

A Story for Children 37

III Coda: Hide-and-Seek

Herbarium 55

Stadium 56

Waterfall 57

Hide-and-Seek 58

Herbarium (II) 59

Olympic Stadium, Montreal 60

Falls, Bristol, VT 61

Revolving Door 62

Hide-and-Seek (II) 63

Previews 64

Notes 67

Acknowledgments 69

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