Flyover Country

Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets

Book 140
Princeton University Press
Free sample

A new collection about violence and the rural Midwest from a poet whose first book was hailed as “memorable” (Stephanie Burt, Yale Review) and “impressive” (Chicago Tribune)

Flyover Country is a powerful collection of poems about violence: the violence we do to the land, to animals, to refugees, to the people of distant countries, and to one another. Drawing on memories of his childhood on a dairy farm in Illinois, Austin Smith explores the beauty and cruelty of rural life, challenging the idea that the American Midwest is mere “flyover country,” a place that deserves passing over. At the same time, the collection suggests that America itself has become a flyover country, carrying out drone strikes and surveillance abroad, locked in a state of perpetual war that Americans seem helpless to stop.

In these poems, midwestern barns and farmhouses are linked to other lands and times as if by psychic tunnels. A poem about a barn cat moving her kittens in the night because they have been discovered by a group of boys resonates with a poem about the house in Amsterdam where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis. A poem beginning with a boy on a farmhouse porch idly swatting flies ends with the image of people fleeing before a drone strike. A poem about a barbwire fence suggests, if only metaphorically, the debate over immigration and borders. Though at times a dark book, the collection closes with a poem titled “The Light at the End,” suggesting the possibility of redemption and forgiveness.

Building on Smith’s reputation as an accessible and inventive poet with deep insights about rural America, Flyover Country also draws profound connections between the Midwest and the wider world.

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About the author

Austin Smith grew up on a family dairy farm in northwestern Illinois. He is the author of a previous poetry collection, Almanac (Princeton), and his work has appeared in the New Yorker, Poetry, Ploughshares, and many other publications. He teaches at Stanford University and lives in Oakland, California.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Oct 2, 2018
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Pages
129
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ISBN
9780691184029
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Collections / American / General
Literary Criticism / General
Literary Criticism / Poetry
Poetry / American / General
Poetry / General
Poetry / Subjects & Themes / Places
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Chosen by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon to relaunch the prestigious Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets under his editorship, The Eternal City revives Princeton's tradition of publishing some of today’s best poetry.

With an epigraph from Freud comparing the mind to a landscape in which all that ever was still persists, The Eternal City offers eloquent testimony to the struggle to make sense of the present through conversation with the past. Questioning what it means to possess and to be possessed by objects and technologies, Kathleen Graber’s collection brings together the elevated and the quotidian to make neighbors of Marcus Aurelius, Klaus Kinski, Walter Benjamin, and Johnny Depp. Like Aeneas, who escapes Troy carrying his father on his back, the speaker of these intellectually and emotionally ambitious poems juggles the weight of private and public history as she is transformed from settled resident to pilgrim.
______

From The Eternal City:
WHAT I MEANT TO SAY
Kathleen Graber ?

In three weeks I will be gone. Already my suitcase stands
overloaded at the door. I’ve packed, unpacked, & repacked it,
making it tell me again & again what it couldn’t hold.
Some days it’s easy to see the signifi cant insignificance
of everything, but today I wept all morning over the swollen,
optimistic heart of my mother’s favorite newscaster,
which suddenly blew itself to stillness. I have tried for weeks
to predict the weather on the other side of the world: I don’t want
to be wet or overheated. I’ve taken out The Complete Shakespeare
to make room for a slicker. And I’ve changed my mind
& put it back. Soon no one will know what I mean when I speak.
Last month, after graduation, a student stopped me just outside
the University gates despite a downpour. He wanted to tell me
that he loved best James Schuyler’s poem for Auden.
So much to remember, he recited in the rain, as the shops
began to close their doors around us. I thought he would live
a long time. He did not. Then, a car loaded with his friends
pulled up honking & he hopped in. There was no chance to linger
& talk. Today I slipped into the bag between two shoes that book
which begins with a father digging--even though my father
was no farmer & planted ever only one myrtle late in his life
& sat in the yard all that summer watching it grow as he died,
a green tank of oxygen suspirating behind him. If the suitcase
were any larger, no one could lift it. I’m going away for a long time,
but it may not be forever. There are tragedies I haven’t read.
Kyle, bundle up. You’re right. It’s hard to say simply what is true.
For Kyle Booten ?

This is an eagerly awaited collection of new poems from the author of Tom Thomson in Purgatory, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was hailed by the New York Times as a "snappy, entertaining book." A triumphant follow-up to that acclaimed debut, At Lake Scugog demonstrates why the San Francisco Chronicle has called Troy Jollimore "a new and exciting voice in American poetry."

Jollimore is a professional philosopher, and in witty and profound ways his formally playful poems dramatize philosophical subjects--especially the individual's relation to the larger world, and the permeable, constantly shifting border between "inner" and "outer." For instance, the speaker of "The Solipsist," suspecting that the entire world "lives inside of your skull," wonders "why / God would make ear and eye / to face outward, not in." And Tom Thomson--a character who also appeared in Jollimore’s first book--finds himself journeying like an astronaut through the far reaches of the space that fills his head, an experience that prompts him to ask that a doorbell be installed "on the inside," so that he can warn the world before "intruding on’t."
______



From At Lake Scugog:
LOBSTERS


Troy Jollimore
?


tend to cluster in prime numbers, sub-
oceanic bundles of bug consciousness
submerged in waking slumber, plunged in pits
of murk-black water. They have coalesced


out of the pitch and grime and salt suspended
within that atmospheric gloom. Their skin
is colorless below. But when exposed
to air, they start to radiate bright green,


then, soon, a siren red that wails: I’m dead.
The meat inside, though, is as white as teeth,
or the hard-boiled egg that comes to mind
when one cracks that crisp shell and digs beneath.


Caress the toothy claw-edge of its pincer
and you will know the single, simple thought
that populates its mind. The lobster trap is elegance
itself: one moving part: the thing that’s caught.

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.
______

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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