Almanac

Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets

Book 63
Princeton University Press
Free sample

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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About the author

Austin Smith was born in the rural Midwest. Most recently, he was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in fiction at Stanford University.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Sep 22, 2013
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Pages
96
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ISBN
9781400848034
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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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Eligible for Family Library

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"For the sake of contraption (like Frost) and of character (like Robinson), John Burt will do a great deal, and his scope and scansion require a great deal, for his theme is nothing less than the reinvention of heroism (King Mark, Mary of Nazareth, St. Francis, Paolo and Francesca, Ariadne) and the invention of a new heroics (Woodrow Wilson, Willard Gibbs). As attentive to ekphrasis as to the sonnet's narrow room, Burt feels what he knows, and he knows that we can learn from the past only by repeating it. A grand achievement!"--Richard Howard.

Almost all these poems are narrative, telling stories that turn on some small but crucial shift of sensibility. One hears in them a speaking rather than a singing voice, a voice which, for all its formality and gravity, remains oral and sociable, a voice which tells things rather than spins charms. Their predominant mood is lucid asperity, sometimes breaking out into the angry Calvinism they always barely keep down, sometimes striving to achieve a humane skepticism that always just eludes them.

The book consists of two sections, one concerned with the cruxes and contradictions of private feeling, the other with the unraveling of the public world. Each section centers on a long narrative poem that culminates the building tensions of the poems that precede it and makes possible the resolutions that follow them.

Sonnet I from "St. Francis and the Wolf" Saved at last, not at the last of me, I knelt two-legged, made of guttural air A little yelp to sound like human prayer. The saints were cautious, understandably.

I took the cup, and managed not to drool, But dreamed the wine was blood, as I'd been taught, And vainly curbed the vain bent of my thought. I knew myself an angel, felt a fool.

Could God have erred in making teeth and maw? Then for his glory I will bite the lamb Whose terror he transmogrifies to awe That I may do his service as I am,

Till as I am I leap the mortal gulf To rage in heaven, a perfected wolf.

Originally published in 1988.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

Most of these poems first appeared in Poetry magazine in the decade from 1967-76 and quickly became underground classics. Brought together here--with more recent work--they reveal their coherence and their urgency.

From "Blake's Seasons": "To Spring" My God! The morning buttonholed me and you, Young Spring, slid down the facets from its crystal-Linity; can you see us here, this earth mote, Now it unites millions' faces turned for you?

The earth budges and peopled calls to itself, And swells with us and our echoes towards your Lucent enshrining; withdraw that consent just Once, come smooth and sharp to stand within our voice!

Try rising with the sun as I have seen you So our breath may catch at your warmth, lapped and tamed In daily humbling; in dew and jewels embrace The wintered soil still wincing from its last loss.

With your cherishing, deft hands, yourself, garnish Her naked force, with your tongue luster her skin; Then leave her flare with your bewildering flame, Whose clear flesh was bounded to abound in you.

Originally published in 1988.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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