EWU Title » Poetry
ISBN: 0-910055-65-3 hardcover
ISBN: 0-910055-66-1 paperback
Famous Persons We Have Known
In this collection of poems we indeed meet the famous persons promised in the title: Lon Chaney, Jr. buying eggs and bananas at a Capistrano Beach supermarket; Elvis "slipping out / with raccoons and owls to buy pink / Cadillacs for anyone that moved him;" Marshal Dillon, his head split by a surfing mishap; even Geronimo, galloping back toward nature, "ruined for love." But this books is about more than famous people. From the car and kokanee-chocked waters of Montana to an art gallery in Utah where the narrator doesn't meet a famous poet laureate, Robbins traces his own heritage and ours by connecting past and present, the dead and living. He does so with sly humor, a naturalist's precision, and a potent lyricism. The cumulative effect is that of a building rhythm that echoes our own trembling relationship to the land that somehow sustains us—"because," as the narrator says in "Bread," the collection's final poem, "feeding / the hungry is what it's always all about."
Richard Robbins grew up in California and Montana. His first collection, The Invisible Wedding, was published in 1984. Over the years, Robbins has received awards from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, the McKnight Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He currently directs the creative writing program and the Good Thunder Reading Series at Minnesota State University, and lives in Mankato with his wife, the poet Candace Black, and their two sons.
This is a humorous, sly, savvy book that explodes our national obsession—these poems are rooted in the weird conglomeration of movies, pop culture, and nature, where we haunt the landscape like the ghosts of fame we imagine at every gas station, grocery store, suburban mall, waiting for mysterious encounters with ineffable—Elvis or God—something to transform us, infuse us with passion, lead us out of the darkness of ordinary life.
This is the most colorful book of poems I've read in recent years. There is something fresh in almost every line, and when I came to the end of the last poem, I felt I'd been given a world.
Famous Persons We Have Known draws us to it with the deep resonance of a great river or lake, one which reflects our inner landscape. The poems are grounded in the geography of the American West—its seasons, its people, its destruction—and lifted by the music Robbins coaxes out of language. They reveal a sympathy with nature and a passion for humane awareness in a culture which often seems to tell us merely to consume and, "Be happy you know nothing." The collection's final lines, about loved ones we must mourn, also apply to these poems, perhaps to all poems good enough to move us profoundly: "They are feeding us, even as they leave. / They are inside of us, kneeling and singing. / They break us and tear from within / as if we were bread. They help us / turn new into the life we didn't know was already here."
To purchase Famous Persons We Have Known by Richard Robbins, please contact our distributor, University Press of New England toll free at 1-800-421-1561 or by fax at 1-603-448-9729. The book is also available online at UPNE, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine retailers.
To request a copy for review, please contact the Carnegie Mellon University Press Editorial Offices at (412) 268-2861 or by email at CarnegieMellonUniversityPress@gmail.com.