After the War for Independence

Front Cover
Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2023 - Poetry - 100 pages

Gerry LaFemina is not so much a presence in contemporary poetry as a blur of movement, a quick phrase of enlightenment, a dharma bum of punk and junk. He watches nuns getting drunk in a bar, hears Leonard Cohen on the juke, drinks the blaze of light in every glass. Like Whitman, who inspired both Kinnell and Kerouac, LaFemina understands the body's demands, "Its sweat, toils, & passions. It's holy vigor." LaFemina rides the rapids of contemporary America: pain and ecstasy, ruin and treasure, angels and vultures, half-moon like a half-eaten cookie are confused in a cascade of feeling, an elegy for wild love and boundless grief.


-Michael Simms


"What is it about the past / that it seems to want to last, to linger into the present?" poet Gerry LaFemina asks us in this powerful collection of poems. Here, remembrances of a precarious childhood in a decaying city illuminate the details of our contemporary moment. These are songs of innocence and experience, in which the gaze of an adult reminiscent narrator makes meaning of a complicated past-unearthing both unnoticed beauties and unacknowledged terrors. Hurtling into the uncertainties of a future that is simultaneously unrecognizable yet familiar, LaFemina finds foothold in fleeting sweetness, in the beauty of the ephemeral moment. In these gorgeously tumbling lyrical lines, meticulously-honed images and details are polished to a burnished glow by the sheen of memory and loss. LaFemina writes, "This is how / we learn heartache, how even a name can be haunted / because a name can be a house we live in for years / waking in the empty rooms of its syllables." After all that is named within this syllabary of poems, the reader will depart the book feeling recognized, feeling haunted, feeling sung to and prayed for, feeling comforted and irrevocably human.


-Lee Ann Roripaugh

About the author (2023)

Award-winning writer Gerry LaFemina is the author of over twenty books, most recently The Pursuit: A Meditation on Happiness (creative nonfiction) and Baby Steps for Doomsday Prepping (prose poems). His previous books include a novel, a collection of short stories, and numerous collections of poetry, including The Parakeets of Brooklyn, Vanishing Horizon, Little Heretic, and The Story of Ash. His essays on poets and prosody, Palpable Magic, came out on Stephen F Austin University Press and his textbook, Composing Poetry: A Guide to Writing Poems and Thinking Lyrically was released by Kendall Hunt. Among his awards and honors is a Pushcart Prize, a Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs Fellowship, and an Irving Gilmore Foundation grant. A noted literary arts activist who has served on the Board of Directors of the AWP and edited numerous literary journals and anthologies, LaFemina is the former director of the Center for Literary Arts at Frostburg State University, where he is a Professor of English, serves as a Mentor in the MFA Program at Carlow University and is a current Fulbright Specialist in Writing, Literature, and American Culture. In his "off" time he is the principle song writer and front man for Coffin Curse recording artists, The Downstrokes.

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