Across the Layers

Poems Old and New

Title Details

Pages: 218

Trim size: 6.120in x 9.100in



Pub Date: 08/01/1993

ISBN: 9-780-8203-1548-5

List Price: $24.95


Pub Date: 04/01/2017

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5210-7

List Price: $79.95

Related Subjects

POETRY / American / General

Across the Layers

Poems Old and New

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  • Description
  • Reviews

When Albert Goldbarth's Heaven and Earth: A Cosmology received the 1992 National Book Critics Circle Award, the citation called it "a dazzling, delirious book as full of zest and joy as it is prodigal in the sweep of its learning and the warmth of its affections: Goldbarth is manna in the desert, a cure for what ails our poetry". Now Goldbarth offers Across the Layers: Poems Old and New, which allows the poet to reconsider recent and previously published work in a continuum of wide stylistic variety and yet deep unifying concerns.

The collection opens with his book-length "novel-poem" Different Fleshes, a serious romp through smalltown Texas and gay Paree in the twenties, and closes with the "essay-poem" "Dual", a study of both intimate filial affections and the risk-taking photographs of Diane Arbus. Between these two major works are poems that range from a twelve-line lyric meditation on loss and continuity to a thirty-four-page narrative adventure of life on the road with a band of antique radio collectors; from poems in autobiographical voice to a chorale spoken by Walt Whitman's imagined children; from the world of Miss Aluminum Siding to the rigorous vision of Georgia O'Keeffe; from an antic litany of comic-book superheroes to a dark look at government espionage on the homefront.

Connecting and further vivifying this surface expanse are shared explorations in the uses of memory, in the bittersweet sounding of elegy, and in patterns and balances on the cosmic scale as registered by small moments of pleasure and pain twinned in individual lives.

Goldbarth, whose Heaven and Earth: A Cosmology won the 1992 National Book Critics Circle Award, is a poet of prodigious gifts—chief among them dazzling intelligence, a passion for language, and a positively Rabelaisian wit and erudition. This remarkable collection includes 'Different Fleshes,' a book-length 'novel-poem' (first published in 1979) that is set in small-town Texas and Paris; twenty-two poems of widely varying style and length; and 'Dual,' an essay-poem that deals with photographer Diane Arbus and his own 'Daddy Irv,' a paint-by-numbers artist. A unifying theme of sorts here is filial affection: 'Before the slaver-,/ shagend-, hunker- and howl-/ beasts lifted themselves on two feet into/ my fathers, my fathers/ wrote poems.' Highly recommended.

Library Journal

About the Author/Editor

ALBERT GOLDBARTH is widely heralded as one of the most creative voices in contemporary American literature. His work frequently appears in the pages of the New Yorker, the Nation, Harper’s, and the major literary reviews. Over the past two decades, he has published nearly two dozen volumes of poems and essays, including Heaven and Earth: A Cosmology (Georgia), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. He has also been a Guggenheim Fellow, the recipient of National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, and a finalist for the National Book Award. Goldbarth is Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Wichita State University.