Last Lake

University of Chicago Press
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From Ritual

A slow parade of old west enthusiasts,
camp song and hymn, came in along the winding

way where rural declined to suburban, slow
riders and wagoners passing a cow staked

to graze, some penned cattle looking vacantly
up—not in vacant lots the ancient icons

of wealth they had been in odes, prayers and epics,
in sacrifices and customs of bride-price

or dowry. (It’s good people no longer make
blood sacrifices, at gas stations and stores,

for example, and in the crunching gravel
parking lots of small churches—oh but we do.)

“The evening forgives the alleyway,” Reginald Gibbons writes in his tenth book of poems—but such startling simplicities are overwhelmed in us by the everyday and the epochal. Across the great range of Gibbons’s emblematic, vividly presented scenes, his language looks hard at and into experience and feeling. Words themselves have ideas, and have eyes—inwardly looking down through their own meanings, as the poet considers a lake in the Canadian north, a Chicago neighborhood, a horse caravan in Texas, a church choir, a bookshelf, or an archeological dig on the steppes near the Volga River. The last lake is the place of both awe and elegy.
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About the author

Reginald Gibbons is a Frances Hooper Professor of Arts and Humanities at Northwestern University. His poetry collections include National Book Award finalist Creatures of a Day and Slow Trains Overhead: Chicago Poems and Stories, the latter also published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Oct 10, 2016
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Pages
96
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ISBN
9780226417592
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Language
English
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Genres
Poetry / American / General
Poetry / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Long anticipated, Recalculating is Charles Bernstein’s first full-length collection of new poems in seven years. As a result of this lengthy time under construction, the scope, scale, and stylistic variation of the poems far surpasses Bernstein’s previous work. Together, the poems of Recalculating take readers on a journey through the history and poetics of the decades since the end of the Cold War as seen through the lens of social and personal turbulence and tragedy. The collection’s title, the now–familiar GPS expression, suggests a change in direction due to a mistaken or unexpected turn. For Bernstein, formal invention is a necessary swerve in the midst of difficulty. As in all his work since the 1970s, he makes palpable the idea that radically new structures, appropriated forms, an aversion to received ideas and conventions, political engagement, and syntactic novelty will open the doors of perception to exuberance and resonance, from giddiness to pleasure to grief. But at the same time he cautions, with typical deflationary ardor, “The pen is tinier than the sword.” In these poems, Bernstein makes good on his claim that “the poetry is not in speaking to the dead but listening to the dead.” In doing so, Recalculating incorporates translations and adaptations of Baudelaire, Cole Porter, Mandelstam, and Paul Celan, as well as several tributes to writers crucial to Bernstein’s work and a set of epigrammatic verse essays that combine poetics with wry observation, caustic satire, and aesthetic slapstick. Formally stunning and emotionally charged, Recalculating makes the familiar strange—and in a startling way, makes the strange familiar. Into these poems, brimming with sonic and rhythmic intensity, philosophical wit, and multiple personae, life events intrude, breaking down any easy distinction between artifice and the real. With works that range from elegy to comedy, conceptual to metrical, expressionist to ambient, uproarious to procedural, aphoristic to lyric, Bernstein has created a journey through the dark striated by bolts of imaginative invention and pure delight.
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