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In his long-awaited first book of prose, poet and essayist Sherod Santos takes a compelling look into some of poetry’s deepest secrets, an investigation that leads him to the surprising conclusion that poems have minds of their own, minds often inaccessible even to the one who composed them.
In these essays, Santos explores not only what he thinks about poetry but also what and how poetry thinks about itself. His writings range across the history of Western poetry, from formative classical myths to modern experimental forms, and touch on subjects as diverse as the rhetorical history of cannibalism, the political and cultural uses of translation, and the current state of American poetry. Along the way, he calls on past poets like Ovid, Baudelaire, and Phyllis Wheatley, on twentieth-century poets like Wallace Stevens, H. D., and Rainer Maria Rilke, and on writers and thinkers like Montaigne, Walter Benjamin, Simone Weil,…[more]
The centerpiece of this collection, “Elegy for My Sister,” is a sequence of poems on the suicide of the poet’s sister in which he gathers, piece by piece, the scattered fragments of his sister’s life. In other poems, Santos follows this elegiac theme into the broader contexts of myth and contemporary history to explore the ways each private loss is overlaid by those harrowing conditions by which our century defines itself.