Carnations: Poems

Princeton University Press
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In Anthony Carelli's remarkable debut, Carnations, the poems attempt to reanimate dead metaphors as blossoms: wild and lovely but also fleeting, mortal, and averse to the touch. Here, the poems are carnations, not only flowers, but also body-making words. Nodding to influences as varied as George Herbert, Francis Ponge, Fernando Pessoa, and D. H. Lawrence, Carelli asserts that the poet’s materials--words, objects, phenomena--are sacred, wilting in the moment, yet perennially renewed. Often taking titles from a biblical vocabulary, Carnations reminds us that unremarkable places and events--a game of Frisbee in a winter park, workers stacking panes in a glass factory, or the daily opening of a café--can, in a blink, be new. A short walk home is briefly transformed into a cathedral, and the work-worn body becomes a dancer, a prophet, a muse.
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From Carnations:
THE PROPHETS


Anthony Carelli
?


A river. And if not the river nearby, then a dream
of a river. Nothing happens that doesn’t happen
along a river, however humble the water may be.


Take Rowan Creek, the trickle struggling to lug
its mirroring across Poynette, wherein, suspended,
so gentle and shallow, I learned to walk, bobbing


at my father’s knees. Later, whenever we tried
to meander on our inner tubes, we’d get lodged
on the bottom. Seth, remember, no matter how we’d


kick and shove off, we’d just get lodged again?
At most an afternoon would carry us a hundred feet
toward the willows. We’d piss ourselves on purpose


just to feel the spirits of our warmth haloing out.
And once, two bald men on the footbridge, bowing
in the sky, stared down at us without a word.

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About the author

Anthony Carelli was raised in Poynette, Wisconsin, and studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before completing an MFA in poetry at New York University. His poems have appeared in various magazines, including the New Yorker. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. This is his first book.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Mar 14, 2011
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Pages
72
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ISBN
9781400838240
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Language
English
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Genres
Poetry / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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This is the second collection from a Brooklyn poet whose work many readers will know from the New Yorker. Jessica Greenbaum's narrative poems, in which objects and metaphor share highest honors, attempt revelation through close observation of the everyday. Written in "plain American that cats and dogs can read," as Marianne Moore phrased it, these contemporary lyrics bring forward the challenges of Wisława Szymborska, the reportage of Yehuda Amichai, and the formal forays of Marilyn Hacker. The book asks at heart: how does life present itself to us, and how do we create value from our delights and losses? Riding on Kenneth Koch's instruction to "find one true feeling and hang on," The Two Yvonnes overtakes the present with candor, meditation, and the classic aspiration to shape lyric into a lasting force.

Moving from 1960s Long Island, to 1980s Houston, to today's Brooklyn, the poems range in subject from the pages of the Talmud to a squirrel trapped in a kitchen. One tells the story of young lovers "warmed by the rays / Their pelvic bones sent over the horizon of their belts," while another describes the Bronx Zoo in winter, where the giraffes pad about "like nurses walking quietly / outside a sick room." Another poem defines the speaker via a "packing slip" of her parts--"brown eyes, brown hair, from hirsute tribes in Poland and Russia." The title poem, in which the speaker and friends stumble through a series of flawed memories about each other, unearths the human vulnerabilities that shape so much of the collection.
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From The Two Yvonnes:
WHEN MY DAUGHTER GOT SICK


Jessica Greenbaum
?


Her cries impersonated all the world;
The fountain's bubbling speech was just a trick
But still I turned and looked, as she implored,
Or leaned toward muffled noises through the bricks:
Just radio, whose waves might be her wav-
ering, whose pitch might be her quavering,
I turned toward, where, the sirens might be "Save


Me," "Help me," "Mommy, Mommy"--everything
She, too, had said, since sloughing off the world.
She took to bed, and now her voice stays fused
To air like outlines of a bygone girl;
The streets, the lake, the room--just places bruised
Without her form, the way your sheets still hold
Rough echoes of the risen sleeper, cold.

Almanac is a collection of lyrical and narrative poems that celebrate, and mourn the passing of, the world of the small family farm. But while the poems are all involved in some way with the rural Midwest, particularly with the people and land of the northwestern Illinois dairy farm where Austin Smith was born and raised, they are anything but merely regional. As the poems reflect on farm life, they open out to speak about childhood and death, the loss of tradition, the destruction of the natural world, and the severing of connections between people and the land.

This collection also reflects on a long poetic apprenticeship. Smith's father is a poet himself, and Almanac is in part a meditation about the responsibility of the poet, especially the young poet, when it falls to him to speak for what is vanishing. To quote another Illinois poet, Thomas James, Smith has attempted in this book to write poems "clear as the glass of wine / on [his] father's table every Christmas Eve." By turns exhilarating and disquieting, this is a remarkable debut from a distinctive new voice in American poetry.
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From Almanac:
THE MUMMY IN THE FREEPORT ART MUSEUM


Austin Smith
?


Amongst the masterpieces of the small-town
Picassos and Van Goghs and photographs
of the rural poor and busts of dead Greeks
or the molds of busts donated by the Art
Institute of Chicago to this dying
town's little museum, there was a mummy,
a real mummy, laid out in a dim-lit
room by himself. I used to go
to the museum just to visit him, a pharaoh
who, expecting an afterlife
of beautiful virgins and infinite food
and all the riches and jewels
he'd enjoyed in earthly life,
must have wondered how the hell
he'd ended up in Freeport, Illinois.
And I used to go alone into that room
and stand beside his sarcophagus and say,
"My friend, I've asked myself the same thing."

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