The House of Blue Light is the second collection of autobiographical “memory poems” by Catholic-school-boy-gone-bad-turned-poet-made-good David Kirby, a stand-up comic of verse if ever there was one: “in Stardust Memories . . . these wise space aliens who visit Earth . . . tell [Woody Allen] that if he really wants to serve humanity, / he should tell funnier jokeswait, that’s my duty, / I think, that’s my public duty! Because sooner or later, / we all turn upside down.”
Wearing both heart and wit on his sleeve, Kirby conﬁdes in longish narrative poems events he actually or vicariously experiencedas a child, a teen, a young man, and nowas well as some future scenes he imagines. Literary theorists Jacques Derrida and Roland Barthes; Little Richard and Muhammad Ali; Herman Melville, James Dickey, and Henry James; friends, family, personal heroes, and acquaintances, including the Ah Oui Girl of Paris and Tige Watley’s Whoah of Baton Rouge, are all equally alive in Kirby’s poems.
As Walt Whitman did, Kirby offers a first-person speaker as a proxy for everyone else (“Who, including ourselves, / knows what we know and when we know it?”), achieving a unity and accessible authenticity rare in poetry. A fun house, “a mishmash for sure,” The House of Blue Light is a delightfully entertaining, irreverent, erudite collection of commentary piling upon commentary that brings us “that one element so largely absent / from our quotidian existence, i.e., surprise.”
About the Author
David Kirby, the W. Guy McKenzie Professor of English at Florida State University, is the author of numerous books, including four previous poetry collections, most recently My Twentieth Century and Big-Leg Music. He has contributed poems and essays to such journals as Kenyon Review, Southern Review, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Gettysburg Review and is included in Best American Poetry 2000, edited by Rita Dove. He is married to the poet Barbara Hamby and lives in Tallahassee.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It's really hard to call this book a book of poetry. Each poem reads like a short story full of interesting characters and plots. In one 77 page book the reader is transported across countries and cultures. It has been said that House of Blue Light is autobiographical. For example Kirby's characters mention a Barbara and Kirby is indeed married to a woman named Barbara Hamby. I do not know if she is the same Barbara of House of Blue Light's poetry. Maybe she is, maybe she isn't. Regardless, Kirby's poetry is funny, situationally (my word) real, and intensely soulful. In a word, substantial; this was poetry I could sink my teeth into and actually taste something.
Life, death, coming-of-age, retirement, day-dreaming, and more, all told about in an approachable style. Kirby is worth reading over and over.