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Authors: Alexander Long
Series: White Pine Press Poetry Prize
"If the best of T.S. Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent”—the revolutionary or perhaps evolutionary part—engendered a book of poems, that book would be Alexander Long’s Still Life, whose title resonates in its myriad possible meanings. For example, history might be life stilled but it is still life. Long listens with his acutely tuned ear and hears, as he writes in his poem about Celan, “Eternity’s chirping din in the birches again,” his call throughout Still Life, to move back and forth across the borders between chronological and eternal time, art and life, the present and the past. He is our seasoned traveler, our tour guide who keeps his extra-ordinary sense of wonder. In the Harrowing of Hell icons, with all his strength, Rabbi Jesus is pulling Adam and Eve bodily from their tombs. Similarly, Long raises from the grave and embodies in his words an astonishing cast of characters who speak in a new lexicon: vernacular and formally playful, learned and down-to-earth, utterly American and deliciously foreign. In Still Life we readers walk—there’s a lot of walking in this world—in intimate proximity with the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Lenny Bruce, and the Vietnam Vet, Chicken Man, in Long’s hometown, Sharon Hill. We eavesdrop on conversations between Paul Celan and Franz Kafka or Jimi Hendrix and César Vallejo on the banks of the Seine or the streets of Seattle, on Venice Beach or the paving stones beneath St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. Still Life exemplifies Eliot’s observation that “not only the best, but the most individual parts of [the poet’s] work may be the parts in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously.” Here we have a poet who, as Eliot puts it, "writes with his own generation in his bones," as it pays homage to the ever-present past, his empathic voice unflinchingly witnessing the world’s horror and lovingly observing its beauties. He speaks for others and his own personal life, and—Hallelujah!—questions the division between the two. In our walk together Alexander Long is still singing and he sings to us—a twenty-first century Walt Whitman—that how we perceive and what we do in the broken world portrayed in Still Life still matters."
Alexander Long's books include Vigil (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2006) and Light Here, Light There (C & R Press, 2009). A chapbook, also titled Still Life, was selected for the 2010 Center for Book Arts Chapbook Competition. With Christopher Buckley, Long is the co-editor of A Condition of the Spirit: the Life & Work of Larry Levis (Eastern Washington UP, 2004). Originally from Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, he lives in Hoboken with his wife Marina Fedosik-Long and three cats.
“There is nothing “still” in the remarkably visceral poems of Alexander Long’s third collection, Still Life, and nothing is at rest in these restless and edgy poems. Conversational and kinetic, these poems chart the traces left by the shifting overlays of the templates of literature, rock-and-roll, and contemporary culture. As each poem in Still Life attempts to fix a focus upon a scene or subject, the protean natures under view draw the poet into the eddies and complexities of reflection. This is a powerful and moving collection of poems.”
— David St. John
“As Alexander Long writes in his remarkable new book, “Listen to history . . . It can’t happen fast enough.” This poet has forged a style which manages to seize history on the wing, even the history we think has past and gone, and set it before us on the page. Agile, prehensile, narrative and aphoristic, these are the poems of a lively and engaged intellect and imagination and they express much of what is best in our poetry today.”
— Mark Jarman, author of Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems
“One of Still Life's many achievements is it's paradoxical mix of intensity and stillness. Alexander Long's visions of landscape, identity and "History itself, a joke that no one gets" are simultaneously meditative and alert, restless and focused. This is a smart, compassionate poet. Still Life is a mesmerizing new book.”
|$16.00||114 pages (Original Trade Paperback)||ISBN: 978-1-935210-29-0||2011|