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Collected Poems (2004)

de Donald Justice

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1784145,700 (3.87)8
Presents a collection of the selected poems of twentieth-century American poet Donald Justice depicting memories of childhood and youth, eulogies for the dead, and reflections of life's disappointments.

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Exibindo 4 de 4
25. Collected Poems by Donald Justice
OPD: 2004
format: 281-page paperback
acquired: 2010 read: Feb 11 – Apr 9 time reading: 6:24, 1.4 mpp (note: I logged 29 reading sessions, most a little over ten minutes)
rating: 3
genre/style: 20th-century poetry theme: TBR
locations: a lot of Miami in the 1930’s and a lot somewhere and sometime else.
about the author: 1925-2004. American teacher of writing and poet, from Miami. He taught at several universities, including the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

I'm just not a very good poetry reader. I really wanted to like this. I love that David Justice is a major 20th-century poet out of depression era Miami - the time and place where my grandparents were struggling to start their adult lives. But I just never felt I linked into this. It had its moments, some very meaningful to me. He does a curious thing where he takes a source, sometimes classical, sometimes recent but maybe from another place or language, and writes his own kind of response. But everything in the response is American. Spanish, French, ancient Italian poetry are responded in terms of roadways, and suburbs. I like the idea of that. But much of this felt to me like not very much about very much. Seems likely I missed a lot, including the heart of this life's work. Justice put this collection together, with notes (and with help), but passed away before it was published.

https://www.librarything.com/topic/348551#8115262 ( )
  dchaikin | Apr 10, 2023 |
Hot damn, what a fantastic collection of poetry.

The best of Justice seems to come at the beginning and the end of this collection. I wish I could describe what sets his good poems apart from his forgettable ones, but I simply can’t. What I can tell you is that it’s evident that Justice pays close attention to form. He seems to love working with repetition, and perhaps that is where the beauty of his poems really lie. Life is so repetitive, after all. It adds up to some sort of quiet meditation. The best come out appearing timeless and classic, and more often than not, melancholic and nostalgic.

One of my favorite poems is “Southern Gothic,” a poem that presents a confusion over the decay of the South and the vague memories of what should be there, but is not. Trellises are “too frail almost to bear/ The memory of a rose, much less a rose.” The ending sticks with me:

“No damask any more prevents the moon,
But it unravels, peeling from a wall,
Red roses within roses within roses.” ( )
  danlai | Sep 1, 2014 |
I don't generally read much poetry. And when I do it often baffles me, makes me feel stupid. But I wanted to at least try this book, Donald Justice's COLLECTED POEMS, because I had recently read and very much enjoyed a book of letters exchanged between Justice and his dear friend, fiction writer Richard Stern, more than fifty years ago, before either had become known - A CRITICAL FRIENDSHIP. Justice, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, probably became more famous than Stern, although as a long-time teacher of writing at the University of Chicago, Stern exerted a strong influence on many writers now more famous than he ever was.

So I wanted very much to like this book. And I did find myself charmed by certain pieces, mostly those from the last few volumes, when Justice allowed himself to range into more accessible free verse or prose poems. Because in his early years he tended to experiment with more difficult forms like 'sestinas' which are complex, nearly mathematical in nature, and - at least to me - not very reader friendly. But even in the early books I found poems I could relate to because of their subjects. One was "Sonnet to My Father," with its poignant closing line, "Yet while I live, you do not wholly die." Another was "Love's Stratagems," which brought to mind youthful back-seat fumblings with its lines:

"But these maneuverings to avoid / The touching of hands, / These shifts to keep the eyes employed / On objects more or less neutral / (As honor, for the time being, commands) / Will hardly prevent their downfall."

And there was the immediately recognizable rhythm and rhyme of the old nursery rhyme, "This Little Piggy" in the ineffably sad "Counting the Mad" -

"This one was put in a jacket, / This one was sent home, / This one was given bread and meat / But would eat none, / And this one cried No No No No / All day long."

And in "An Elegy Is Preparing Itself," a coffin, a shroud and a headstone enter into the piece. An affecting mini-portrait of the jobless men and the wandering armies of the unemployed from the thirties is offered in "Cinema and Ballad of the Great Depression."

Justice pays tribute to remembered music and dancing teachers in poems like "Mrs. Snow" (a dandruffy old woman in her kitsch-crowded apartment), "The Piano Teachers: A Memoir of the Thirties" and "Dance Lessons of the Thirties."

Equally poignant and indescribably sad is "A Chapter in the Life of Mr. Kehoe, Fisherman" with its sounds on a dock "Of bare feet dancing, / Which is Mr. Kehoe, / Lindying solo, / Whirling, dipping, / In his long skirt / That swells and billows, / Turquoise and pink, / Mr. Kehoe in sequins, / Face tilted moonward, / Eyes half-shut, dreaming."

If I had to pick favorites here, one would be "Ralph: A Love Story" a prose poem about a movie projectionist from an era "when stars did not have names" who flees a romantic entanglement only to die alone, still remembering "images in the dark, shifting and flashing ..." The other would most definitely be "On an Anniversary," beginning with, "Thirty years and more gone by / In the blinking of an eye, / And you are still the same / As when first you took my name."

So yes, there are some pieces here which I did find accessible and affecting. I only wish there had been more. When I am asked if I have favorite poets, my standard answers are usually Frost, Raymond Carver, and the later poems of Donald Hall. And now, perhaps, at least some of the poetry of Donald Justice. Recommended for poetry enthusiasts and students of poetry. ( )
1 vote TimBazzett | Jul 16, 2014 |
Not great to say the very least. ( )
  Djupstrom | Apr 29, 2010 |
Exibindo 4 de 4
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Informação do Conhecimento Comum em inglês. Edite para a localizar na sua língua.
To the memory
of my mother and father
Primeiras palavras
Informação do Conhecimento Comum em inglês. Edite para a localizar na sua língua.

Great Leo roared at my birth,
The windowpanes were lit
With stars' applausive light,
And I have heard that the earth
As far away as Japan
Was shaken again and again
The morning I came forth.
Informação do Conhecimento Comum em inglês. Edite para a localizar na sua língua.
Sestina on Six Words by Weldon Kees

I often wonder about the others,
Where they are bound for on the voyage,
What is the reason for their silence,
Was there some reason to go away?
It may be they carry a dark burden,
Expect some harm, or have done harm.

How can we show we mean no harm?
Approach them? But they shy from others.
Offer, perhaps, to share the burden?
They change the subject to the voyage,
Or turn abruptly, walk away,
To brood against the rail in silence.

What is defeated by their silence
More than love, less than harm?
Many already are looking their way,
Pretending not to. Eyes of others
Will follow them now the whole voyage
And add a little to the burden.

Others touch hands to ease the burden,
Or stroll, companionable in silence,
Counting the stars which bless the voyage,
But let the foghorn speak of harm,
Their hearts will stammer like the others',
Their hands seem in each other's way.

It is so obvious, in a way.
Each is alone, each with its burdern.
To others they are always others,
And they can never break the silence,
Say, lightly, thou, but to their harm
Although they make many a voyage.

What do they wish for from the voyage
But to awaken far away
By miracle free from harm,
Hearing at dawn that sweet burden
The birds cry after a long silence?
Where is that country not like others?

There is no way to ease the burden.
The voyage leads on from harm to harm,
A land of others and of silence.
The Small White Churches of the Small White Towns

The twangy, off-key hymn songs of the poor,
Not musical, but somehow beautiful.
And the paper fans in motion, like little wings.
And Sundays, among kin, happily ignored,
I sit nodding, somnolent with horizons.
Often I blink, reentering
The world—or catch, surprised, in a shop window,
My ghostly image skimming across nude mannequins,
Drawbridges, careless of traffic, lean there,
Against the low clouds—early evening...
Westward now
The smoke rose of oblivion blooms, hangs;
And on my knee a small red sun-glow, setting.
For a long time I feel, coming and going in waves,
The stupid wish to cry. I dream...
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Presents a collection of the selected poems of twentieth-century American poet Donald Justice depicting memories of childhood and youth, eulogies for the dead, and reflections of life's disappointments.

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