"X" is the kiss and betrayal, the embrace, the crucifixion, the mathematical unknown. In his sixth book of poems, James Galvin writes from a deep, philosophical engagement with the landscape and faces a "vertigo of solitude" with his marriage dissolved, his only daughter grown and gone, and the log house he built by hand abandoned. "What did...

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"X" is the kiss and betrayal, the embrace, the crucifixion, the mathematical unknown. In his sixth book of poems, James Galvin writes from a deep, philosophical engagement with the landscape and faces a "vertigo of solitude" with his marriage dissolved, his only daughter grown and gone, and the log house he built by hand abandoned. "What did I love that made me believe it would last?" he asks.

Something has to be true enough to be
Taken for granted.
In the hospital I saw
An old man
Caressing the face of an old woman.
This same man, young, caressed her face
In just that way.
That’s the stillness
At the center of change—
A sadness worth dying for, I swear—
There is no other.
—from "Dying into What I’ve Done"

"James Galvin has a voice and a world, perhaps the two most difficult things to achieve in poetry."—The Nation

"In James Galvin we have a superior poet."—American Book Review

"Galvin’s poems have the virtues of precise observation and original language, yes, but what he also brings to the table is a rigor of mind and firmness of phrasing which make the slightest of his poems an architectural pleasure."—Harvard Review

James Galvin has published five collections of poetry, most recently Resurrection Update: Collected Poems 1975–1997, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the Lenore Marshall/The Nation Prize. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed prose book, The Meadow and a novel, Fencing the Sky. He lives in Laramie, Wyoming, where he works as a rancher part of each year, and in Iowa City, where he is a member of the permanent faculty of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As in "Ex-": "Why was the last kiss May seventh/ And so shy?" Such unanswerable questions, and the sad moments that take the place of replies, make this sixth book of poetry from Galvin (Resurrection Update; Fencing the Sky) both his most focused and his most affecting. Though his work life is based at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Galvin has long spent part of each year in Wyoming, which he has described in a memoir and a novel: here, clipped short lines and trademark page-spanning sentences consider the "night sky pinned up with stars," the mountain pines, and the fires that threaten them, where "geography offers history few options." Most of the volume, however, grows from far more personal hazards and regrets: poems glance off or focus painfully on Galvin's recent divorce from the poet Jorie Graham. "So out of love with life am I," he muses, "No future will have me." Galvin moves trenchantly between terse reflection and pointed accusation: "Extremophile, you lied to everyone,/ Lies with wings." Galvin has always employed single lines and stand-alone sentences, and his poems end up eminently quotable; the best among them string those sentences together into harrowing meditations on landscape, deception or love now lost. A long, final, three-part poem detours through Italian spelunking, returns to the pain of Galvin's breakup ("like the opposite of/ Lamaze"), then closes the volume on tender words for his daughter, explaining the volume's mysterious title; X marks both the mystery of any life and the star-crossed events one poem compares to "broken limbs," "an inner din unending." (Apr.) Forecast: This strong book would do well enough on its merits alone, but Galvin's influential position at Iowa and the frank, if laconic, poems about the end of his marriage to Graham may give this book a gossip-fueled boost. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In his sixth book of poetry (e.g., Fencing the Sky), Galvin evokes a stark western landscape that becomes an organic part of his personal reappraisal after a broken marriage ("my wife untrue, my daughter flown"). Although broad lines of poems like "Fire Season" and "Ponderosa" are meant to resemble the expanse of Wyoming (where Galvin has a home), landscape is here more than picturesque backdrop. With "that arrangement of allegiances called family" now gone, Galvin, overwhelmed by his stressful personal ordeal, searches for "the stillness/ At the center of change." Hardy ponderosa pines become emblems of continuity and the ability to survive in a wild terrain, and emotional imagery of fire, rain, and wind give a feeling of elemental strife. In the last poem ("1,2,3"), seeking social support, the poet describes rappelling down "the breach of a lightless well" in Italy and recalls his teacher, Donald Justice. In the end, Galvin copes with significant life change in grief-laden, somber poetry that is yet a heartfelt cry for healing. By exploring the multiple meanings of his book's title-including perhaps the ultimate association of hugs and kisses, which he sends to his daughter in a charming personal letter-Galvin helps us understand disruption in our lives. A nice addition to contemporary poetry collections.-Frank Allen, Northampton Community Coll., Tannersville, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556591914
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2003
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

James Galvin is both a rancher in Wyoming and on the permanent faculty at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He is the author of six books of poems, an acclaimed memoir The Meadow, and a novel.

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Table of Contents

Little Dantesque 3
Dear May Eighth 5
Dear Nobody's Business 7
Wild Irises on Dirty Woman Creek 8
Alpenrose Growing by the Door 9
Rolling Sun 10
Show-and-Tell 11
Prevailing Wind 12
Fire Season 13
Ponderosa 14
Earthquake 16
So Long 18
Dying into What I've Done 19
Limber Pines 21
Promises Are for Liars 22
Bad Samaritans 23
Ought 24
Jet Stream 26
Double Rainbow 28
Upslope 31
Conflagration of Opposites 32
Freezing Rain 34
Heat Waves in Winter Distance 35
River Edged with Ice 36
Winter Solstice Full Moon at Perigee 37
January Thaw 39
Leap Year 40
Show Me Your Original Face, the Face You Had Before Your Parents Were Born 41
Cherry Blossoms Blowing in Wet, Blowing Snow 42
Nature, beside Herself 43
Sunset through Spring Snow 44
Depending on the Wind 46
Putting Down the Night 48
Splinters of the True Cross 50
Nature Averts Her Eyes 51
1,2,3 57
About the Author 67
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