As My Age Then Was, So I Understood Them: New and Selected Poems, 1981-2020 - Stephen Corey
$20.00, ISBN 978-1-945680-53-3
Stephen Corey’s work is intelligent, moving and engaging. Poem after poem is beautiful, effortless, and thought-provoking. The range of style and subject matter, the depth of thought and emotion, the elegance and resonance and simplicity of language, the affectionate voice and tone—all work to make this a truly important and memorable book.
“One of the delights of reading a poet’s retrospective is seeing the earlier poems filtered through the lens of the newer ones, as through this collection’s “History of my Present”—an apt title for reframing a life’s work thus far. Stephen Corey’s new collection is shaped by an acute awareness of the inevitable—“the catastrophe of next”—and by the truth that we are transformed as much by our passions as by our losses: “how much must we lose to know/we are now some other thing?” and “to invent we must be kept from something.” With a depth of feeling underscored by fierce wit and understated playfulness, the poems in As My Age Then Was, So I Understood Them sing of love (both familial and erotic) loss and longing, desire and grief—all the things that connect us across time and space. A lovely through-line is the extended meditation on art: the making of it, our responses to it, its relationship to life, the idea of permanence despite the inevitable march of time. As the poems in this fine collection remind us: 'the heart of [our] comfort, the voice/lifted far past speech, remains.'”
“Here is a life, and a life, and / a life,” Stephen Corey writes in the opening poem’s instructions to on how find the faded leaf—also a metaphor for the end of life—that one must imagine still colored after he is “gone.” The poem is echoed near the end of this stunningly rich and encompassing book in a poem addressed to his four daughters about what he has missed during his life. In between we encounter a world we thought we knew but have not seen in this way before: things as varied as Monarch butterflies, telephones, calligraphy, and bread, as well as other writers and texts that become lenses to show us “How we are growing undoes what we are” and see.
Like the glassblower’s art in one of these major poems, “Breath makes another world.” And like his Michelangelo in a sequence that masterfully covers centuries, we see “the way a life we love can be steered, / beyond our control, beyond us.” And so, thanks to this important and needed book we too can live beyond ourselves; that, indeed, is the highest praise for any art.”
—Richard Jackson, author of Broken Horizons and Where the Wind Comes From
“Stephen Corey’s, As My Age Then Was, So I Understood Them, is sometimes bookish, in the best ways, and in addition to welcoming many of the stars in our pantheon (Shakespeare, O’Keeffe, Keats, Ginsberg, Woolf, and Whitman for example) there’s also the dual elegy for the poet’s father and Dickinson (the latter also has her own baseball poem), Emerson ‘at the moment of his first masturbation,” and a sequence in which Li Po and Tu Fu hop on a jet and tour America. What this means is that when Corey forays into “the real world” —keeping a hospital death watch, exploring and exalting carnal love, or delighting in his young daughter “playing Beethoven on my chest” — the poems are informed by both of his masters… by the “shelves of books” that are “the bones of my brain.””
Stephen Corey worked at the Georgia Review for thirty six years in various positions including thirteen year as Editor before retiring in 2019. His first two poetry collections, The Last Magician (Water Mark Press, 1981) and Synchronized Swimming (Swallow’s Tale Press, 1984), were winners of national competitions. All These Lands You Call One Country (University of Missouri Press, 1992) and There Is No Finished World (White Pine Press, 2003) followed, and a half-dozen poetry chapbooks were interspersed along the way. His first prose collection was Startled at the Big Sound: Essays Personal, Literary, and Cultural (Mercer University Press, 2017), and a second is in process.