Civil Wars: Poems

Civil Wars: Poems

by David R. Slavitt


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Praise for David R. Slavitt

"Slavitt's touch is light, and he writes beautifully.... His satire is sharp, and he can be wildly funny." -- New York Times Book Review

"One of America's most lucid and classical poets.... Slavitt's attitude is, as one would expect of a Hebrew as well as Greco-Latin classicist, sharply questioning as well as tragic. He is a poet one reads to know more." -- Booklist

"Slavitt is both smart and wise; he's as well known for his translations of the writers of antiquity as he is for his original work, both poetry and prose.... With a rich sense of humor, a bit of attitude, and a fascination with details, even minutiae, Slavitt tries his hand at new and curious measures and forms as well as seemingly free-range meditations -- or, one might say, meanderings." -- Library Journal

The bravura of David R. Slavitt's first book of poems, published more than fifty years ago, continues to reverberate through his newest collection in a voice matured and roughened by age.

Civil Wars conjures the mutterings of old men: meditations -- despondent yet playfully witty and bold -- on the meaning of life and death, the reasoning for human action or inaction, and misremembered memories. Nothing proves too lofty or too trifling for the poet's scrutiny. Slavitt's attention roves from the carnage inflicted by the Achaeans at Troy, to the performances of Borrah Minevich and the Harmonica Rascals, from meditations on Spinoza to the baseball of the New York Yankees. He considers with deliberation all of these subjects and deems them necessary to help create a spiritual connection in our lives. Slavitt encourages contemplation of the world and writing rather than acceptance of the thoughts of the critic, who "comes, austere, a man of authority, / and offers to help" but only dilutes the power of a poem. In this collection, Slavitt also includes translations of Greek, Hebrew, Provençal, French, and Old English poems, including a little-known piece by the mathematician Pierre de Fermat and the Old English epic poem "The Battle of Maldon."

LSU Press

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807151808
Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
Publication date: 09/09/2013
Pages: 80
Sales rank: 754,683
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

David R. Slavitt has published more than one hundred books, including The Seven Deadly Sins and Other Poems, Change of Address, and William Henry Harrison and Other Poems. Born in White Plains, New York, and educated at Andover, Yale, and Columbia, Slavitt has worked at Newsweek and has taught at Temple University, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Bennington College.

LSU Press

Table of Contents

Part 1 Poems

Isaac 3

Tisiphone 5

Intimate: 6

Tortoise 7

Dancing Bear 8

Hour Glass 9

Comb 10

Civil Wars 11

Spy 13

Tinnitus 14

Il Trovatore: The Villanelle 15

Sirens 16

Ptolemaic Astronomy 17

Epitaph for a Headmaster 20

Dinner Toast 21

The Washing of the Bodies 22

Harmonica Rascals 23

Escape 25

April 20 26

Normandie 27

Spinoza 28

Osip and Boris 29

Conversation with My Father 30

Sestrna on Six End-Words of Petrarch 31

Cat's Eyes 33

Underwood 34

The Poem 35

Recording Angel 36

Yankees 37

Revision 38

Castaways 39

All We like Sheep 40

Department of Corrections 41

Invention 42

Waiting for Sleep 43

Choice 44

Raimon de Roussillon 45

Salida de Emergencia 46

Conservatory Clerihew 47

Part 2 Renditions

"The Vine and the Billy Goat," by Leonidas of Tarentum 51

"Workmen," anonymous, from the Hebrew 52

"Red Lips," anonymous, Greek folk song 54

"Lament for Bion," anonymous, from the Greek, c. 100 BCE 55

"Provencal Poets," by Denis of Portugal 56

"Of the Deceitful Brevity of Life," by Luis de Gongora 57

"Give Way to God, or The Dying Christ," by Pierre de Fermat 58

"The Battle of Maldon," anonymous, from the Old English 61

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