PRAISE FOR DIRGE FOR AN IMAGINARY WORLD:
Wildness and precision and passion balanced with wit—there are the hallmarks of Matthew Buckley Smith’s superb Dirge for an Imaginary World. In subjects great (“For the Neanderthals”) and small made great (“For the College Football Mascots”), the comic is rich with serious intent and gravity lightened with discerning wit. But only a poet who lifts heavy and unwieldy subjects—death, lost love, the absence of god—knows the imperatives of graceful balance.
– Andrew Hudgins (Judge, 2011 Able Muse Book Award)
In this deeply impressive debut volume of poetry, Dirge for an Imaginary World, Matthew Buckley Smith delivers a remarkable range of deft formal schemes, temporal movements, and varied settings. We encounter sonnets, couplets, quatrains, Sapphics, sestets and so forth written with a slick, delightful merging of technical expertise and smooth contemporary rhythms. The range of subjects is equally and as charmingly eclectic, from Neanderthals, Dante, Vermeer, for instance, to College Football Mascots, Highway Mediums, and Spring Ballet Exams. Mental and linguistic agility generously challenge the reader in poem after poem.
– Greg Williamson (from the “Foreword”)
“If a way to the Better there be, it exacts a full look at the Worst,” wrote Thomas Hardy, whose spirit moves through the fine poems of Matthew Buckley Smith’s debut collection. Like his blast-beruffled predecessor, Smith braves a clear-eyed look at our fallen world, mourning in elegantly precise language the sorrows inherent in “set(ting) out to map a promised land/ Out of reach and always just at hand,” but also wishing great mercy upon us travelers failed and failing. These are poems full of both reckoning and grace, made all the more beautiful for their humane wisdom. Dirge for an Imaginary World is immensely impressive.
– Carrie Jerrell
Matthew Buckley Smith was born in Atlanta, Georgia. He earned his MFA in poetry at the Johns Hopkins University. His poems have appeared, or will soon appear in various magazines, including Beloit Poetry Journal, Commonweal, Iron Horse Literary Review, Measure, The Alabama Literary Review, Think Journal, and Best American Poetry 2011. His poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, Joanna.
PRAISE FOR VIRTUE, BIG AS SIN:
Frank Osen’s Virtue, Big as Sin offers one witty, elegant poem after another. The rhymes are especially clever, the meter sure, the stanzas well-shaped, but this poet’s sense of proportion is also reflected in wisdom (and what is wisdom but a sense of proportion?). An urbane maker of sparkling phrases like “that genuine Ur of the ersatz,” Osen can also write plainly, movingly, about a young girl’s funeral. And he reflects often on art itself, which he so rightly calls “the conjured awe.”
—Mary Jo Salter (Judge, 2012 Able Muse Book Award)
In his talent for tragedy and comedy, and for mixing them, Osen takes his place in a distinguished line of English-language poets that runs from Chaucer and Shakespeare down to our day.
—Timothy Steele (from the afterword)
Reading Virtue, Big as Sin has left me with the sense of satisfaction and enduring pleasure that really good poetry always produces, even when it also does the rest of what honest writing may do: confirm suspicions about ourselves we wish we could refute, bring to mind aspects of nature we’d rather forget, and deliver alarming news about the future, both public and private. Frank Osen does all of this and much more, all with grace and wit, in language that makes the messenger thoroughly “one of us.”
—Rhina P. Espaillat
Frank Osen’s poems revel in beauty and pleasure, in technical dexterity and high-gloss finish. Readers who care about such things will be abundantly rewarded. But the reveling is haunted by loss, awful possibilities of failure, a nothingness glimpsed beneath the carnival. One of Osen’s avowed tutelary spirits is Wallace Stevens, and his probing of his subjects can often seem like an extended, heart-wrenching commentary on Stevens’s line, “Death is the mother of Beauty.” The fragility of beauty, the omnipresence of death, and the intimate connections between them, are everywhere present in these marvelously heartening and effective poems.
PRAISE FOR A VERTICAL MILE:
Deeply rooted in the human history and natural order of his native state, Richard Wakefield’s A Vertical Mile depicts life in rural Washington—people, animals, plants, geological formations, the weather and the seasons. Building on his powerful and impressive first collection East of Early Winters, Wakefield, in A Vertical Mile, has now firmly established himself as one of America’s foremost formal poets. In their memorable presentation by way of deftly employed narrative, meter, rhyme, metaphor, symbol, and diction, the poems in this new collection, once read, cannot be easily dislodged from the mind. That, in itself, is evidence that Wakefield’s best poems are a permanent addition to American letters.
– David Middleton
Richard Wakefield crafts his verse to exacting standards yet keeps it uncontrived. Throughout A Vertical Mile, Wakefield shows us much about ourselves and the various worlds we inhabit, often of our own making. What he reveals may be sobering or amusing, uplifting or distressing. But, carried by a voice as versatile as the intelligence behind it, it is sure to surprise and delight us as well.
– David Sanders (from the “Foreword”)
Richard Wakefield writes with a rare metrical skill that calls to mind the poetry of Robert Frost, and like Frost he tells intricate and compelling stories about ordinary people living close to the land. But there’s nothing nostalgic here. There’s compassion, and decency, but never an easy answer. Wakefield’s choice of conventional form is a wry and subtle comment on the contemporary moment, and his mastery of that form raises his work above all the chaos and fads. No, these poems are not nostalgic. They are timeless.
– Chris Anderson
The arc of discovery is what one traverses in Richard Wakefield’s poetry. It may be a remembered seascape made new by the dust of familial ashes or a lost town, covered by a century of a forest’s reclaiming growth. As a poet of the outdoors—one who sees and, seeing, makes new what he has seen—Wakefield is unsurpassed.
– R.S. Gwynn