2011 Title » Poetry
Science and speculation, faith and doubt, reformation and resistance: "politics" consists in navigating the forms of internal discord that we find both within our communities and within ourselves. In The Politics, his first collection of poems, Benjamin Paloff animates these dynamics by orchestrating a grand dialogue among contentious philosophers, ancient heroes, pop icons, and the man on the street. Part-drama, part-treatise, this is a book in which the most modest fragments of history and biography, of physics and imagination, "survive by calling out / to one another."
Benjamin Paloff grew up in Atlantic City and is a poetry editor at Boston Review. His poems have appeared in The New Republic, A Public Space, The Paris Review, and elsewhere, and he writes frequently for such publications as The Nation and the Times Literary Supplement. The recipient of grants and fellowships from the US Fulbright Program and the National Endowment for the Arts, he is also the translator of several works from Central and Eastern European literatures. He teaches at the University of Michigan.
"What happened to all the problems/that disappear when you refuse to name them?" asks this fierce and urgent collection by Benjamin Paloff. Theologies, Law, Biophysics, illusions of Confessional Autobiography, and the Great American Love Story: the commodity—everything stars, is undone, then remade in the formal clarity of these heartbreakingly honest poems. Often aphoristic, lit by a clarity that recalls Classical Stoicism, these vivid poems enact what the American mind feels like now, what it feeds on, what it is spooked by, as it fairly crumbles beneath the freight of so much matter, so much inherited knowledge, so much desire, and so much desire for righteousness—poems splintering only to be formed again and again by Paloff's brilliant bracings. This is a book where one ghosted mind seeks a progenitor—culturally, spiritually, politically—and finds traces everywhere, in kitchens, in histories, in ideas just as they have been abandoned—sites uncovered for us to haunt, or to hunt it, with Paloff as our guide, in order to locate a place where we can say "we began. . . ." Gorgeous, funny, wise work—important work—come to us not a minute too soon.
In The Politics, Benjamin Paloff speaks from within some of the finest aspects of classic philosophical poetry's tunics, without wearing any of the garments instructive-side out. He's far more politic than that—nimble in wit, provocatively contemporary, and, foremost, a moving and imaginative new voice.
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