"For James Richardson, poetry is serious and speculative play for both intellect and imagination… [He] makes familiar scenes strange enough to provoke new and startling insights."—National Book Award Judges
"James Richardson is . . . a poet who earned his reputation as a master of imagery and concision."—The Christian Science Monitor
"[O]ne of America's most distinctive contemporary poets . . . a powerful and moving body of work that in its intimacy and philosophical naturalism is unique in contemporary American poetry."—Boston Review
"James Richardson's poetry is . . . unusual, quirky, personal, and profound."—The Threepenny Review
In this seriously playful new collection, James Richardson enters into underused and forgotten places in our emotional spectrum to revive lost feelings. His breathtaking skill with aphorisms open portals of new perspective to refresh us with their humor and make the familiar reinvigorated with the blessedly strange.
From "Big Scenes":
And what was King Kong ever going to do
with Fay Wray, or Jessica Lange,
but climb, climb, climb and get shot down?
No wonder Gulliver's amiably chatting
with that six-inch woman in his palm.
Desire's huge, there's really nowhere to put it
in this small world that it will stay put:
might as well just talk…
James Richardson is the author of six books of poetry, including By the Numbers, which was a National Book Award finalist, and his poems appear regularly in The New Yorker. He is a professor of English and creative writing at Princeton University and lives in New Jersey.
"I am tired now, tired of the expertise/ that says there is nothing new,/ no thought or feelings not already words," Richardson (By the Numbers) writes in a collection replete with wry wit and transcendental insight. Demonstrating vigilance, vulnerability, and humility, Richardson keeps to his now well-established pattern of interspersing poems and aphorisms, typically with the former offering implicit wisdom and the latter explicit, together creating just enough analytical work for the reader while reinforcing ideas in simple terms. His poems have emotional narratives that guide the reader through the subjects of death, love, and solitude in ways that simultaneously warm and unnerve ("This is what the dead must see: their own houses/ miles off on dark hills, small as sparks"). Richardson instills wonder and pause in the reader by uncovering the soul or core of an idea, an object, or a phenomenon ("slow-thoughted trees have understood/ that there is a house among them"). His aphorisms are largely delightful and sagacious ("My heart leaps, running for the stick/ you never threw"), and nearly all are effervescent. Quick moving and full of curiosity, Richardson's work offers a thorough study of beauty, relationships, and experience distilled to timelessness.