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 standsoverloaded 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 insignificanceof 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 weeksto predict the weather on the other side of the world: I don't wantto 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 outsidethe University gates despite a downpour. He wanted to tell methat he loved best James Schuyler's poem for Auden. So much to remember, he recited in the rain, as the shopsbegan to close their doors around us. I thought he would livea long time. He did not.
Graber is one of the most interesting, slippery and philosophical new poets to come along in a while. This, her second collection, relaunches the Princeton poetry series under the editorship of Paul Muldoon. Graber's lengthy, long-lined, poems take in everything from St. Augustine to Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers to a rash of deaths in the poet's own family, and that's in just one poem. From these varied specifics, Graber pulls this kind of haunting wisdom: "We were not written/ to be safe. In the old tales, the woodcutter's daughter's path/ takes her, each time, through the dark forest." What's been written is a constant touchstone for Graber (Correspondence) perhaps half the poems have an epigraph, from the likes of William Blake, Marcus Aurelius and Walter Benjamin. Those sources, as well as Graber's candid tone, set the poems in the midst of an ongoing conversation with the lessons of history and religion. But what makes Graber's poems so fresh and wild are the associative slips that happen between the distant past and the urgent present,: "Noah lived 350 years/ beyond the flood & became a man of the earth, intoxicated/ in old age on the vines he's raised. Even in our silence,/ we are told, we carry the Word. This morning in the shower,/ I looked down & saw my mother's bar body asleep in mine."