Dan Chiasson, hailed as “one of the most gifted poets of his generation” upon the appearance of his first book, takes inspiration for his stunning new collection from the Historia Naturalis of Pliny the Elder.
“What happens next, you won’t believe,” Chiasson writes in “From the Life of Gorky,” and it is fair warning. This collection suggests that a person is like a world, full of mysteries and wonders–and equally in need of an encyclopedia, a compendium of everything known. The long title sequence offers entries such as “The Sun” (“There is one mind in all of us, one soul, / who parches the soil in some nations / but in others hides perpetually behind a veil”), “The Elephant” (“How to explain my heroic courtesy?”), “The Pigeon” (“Once startled, you shall feel hours of weird sadness / afterwards”), and “Randall Jarrell” (“If language hurts you, make the damage real”). The mysteriously emotional individual poems coalesce as a group to suggest that our natural world is populated not just by fascinating creatures–who, in any case, are metaphors for the human as Chiasson considers them– but also by literature, by the ghosts of past poetries, by our personal ghosts. Toward the end of the sequence, one poem asks simply, “Which Species on Earth Is Saddest?” a question this book seems poised to answer. But Chiasson is not finally defeated by the sorrows and disappointments that maturity brings. Combining a classic, often heartbreaking musical line with a playful, fresh attack on the standard materials of poetry, he makes even our sadness beguiling and beautiful.
From the Hardcover edition.
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FROM THE LIFE OF GORKY
INSCRIBED ON A LINTEL
THE ELEPHANT III
THERE ISA STAR IN THE SEA
THINGS I SAWWITH MY OWN EYES
FROM THE LIFE OF GORKY II
THE ELEPHANT II
FROM THE LIFE OF GORKY III
WHICH SPECIES ON EARTH IS SADDEST?
Other editions - View all
Afterlife of Objects American Poets beside a quarry beside the ocean bird body born beside buried in large BYTHE SMALLEST SHRIEK cave Chiasson Concerning Fortune cockle cries dawn EARTH IS SADDEST Elephant embalmers everywhere feel flowers football helmet FOUR HORACES GEORGIC girl GIVE GROUND GORKY Gorky's My Childhood Harvard University hollers honey hurts HYENAS John Brown Line from Frost lived beside LOVE SONG lyre menacing shoulders mindful current mother Natural History neighbors never night sky nine jazz songs once painted fur party peaches Peeled Horse pigeon pile pissed my pants play Pliny Poem Beginning poetry pomegranate PURPLE BUSH Randall Jarrell river sadpaper Sarah saw me glance say a thing says my voice SCARED BYTHE SMALLEST Scholars shit skull skyscraper smooth jazz SOIL Stay someday star stay full stay mild Stay whole storybook sycamores there's tree vodka voice doesn't say voyeur Wallace Stevens wax lovers weird wildflower