Clayfeld Holds On
Clayfeld Holds On
Beneath this mellow harvest moon,
I can still picture you—a boy content
just fishing with his father from a ledge
above a foaming stream. The flailing trout
you caught is packed in gleaming ice;
the pink stripe all along its side
is smeared across black shiny dots
that seem to shine with their own light.
I’m sure that you can picture me
with equal vividness, and though we’re not
identical, there is a sense
in which I am inventing you
as much as you’re inventing me.
In Clayfeld Holds On, Robert Pack offers his readers a comprehensive portrait of his longtime protagonist Clayfeld, who is also Pack’s doppelgänger, his alternate self, enacting both the life that the poet has lived and the life he might have lived, given his proclivities and appetites. Poet and protagonist, taken together, are self and consciousness of self, the historical self and the embellished story of that literal self.
Written with a masterly ear for rhythm, and interweaving narrative and lyrical passages, the poems recount Clayfeld’s formative memories while exploring concepts such as loyalty, generosity, commitment, as well as cosmic phenomena such as the big bang theory and black holes. Through all of this, Pack attempts to find purpose and meaning in an indifferent universe, and to explore the labyrinth of his own proliferating identity.
112 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2015
"Robert Pack is one of the most important poets of our epoch. In a career that exceeds fifty years he has explored his life and the lives of people in our society with unparalleled intelligence and beauty. His new book Clayfeld Holds On is remarkable for its exuberance, profundity, and sheer joy. He is one of the poets by whom our culture will be known in times to come."
"In his stunning, brilliant new collection, Clayfeld Holds On, the octogenarian Robert Pack revisits the lamp-lit chambers of his alter ego, Clayfeld (Old Adam) some thirty years on. These poems are hard-won, informed with a rare wit, compendium of knowledge, and deep intelligence, by turns heartbreaking, full of wisdom and a Swiftian sense of the folly of human endeavor, and funny as hell. And then there are ghosts that recline at the table of Pack’s symposium—Freud, Job, Shakespeare, Mozart, Frost and Stevens among them—nudging him on to tell one more story, while there is still time."
Paul Mariani, author of Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life
"Clayfeld Holds On is a superb volume of late poems by Robert Pack, a singular voice in American poetry. Clayfeld is Pack’s alter-ego, raging against the dying of the light, walking down paths retaken with renewed gusto. The poet’s subtle cadences draw the reader forward through narratives of recovery toward self-discoveries that are world-discoveries as well. Clayfeld Holds On is a satisfying and resonant collection, a vision of reality that is gripping and profound."
Jay Parini, author of The Art of Subtraction: New and Selected Poems
"Robert Pack writes in a compassionate voice, full of humor and sorrow for all the losses, and yet always ready to take on more."
Julia Alvarez, author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents
"There are great pleasures in reading Robert Pack’s Clayfeld Holds On. Pack's new collection of poems is a culminating achievement by this deeply serious and at the same time irrepressibly playful writer."
John Elder, author of Reading the Mountains of Home
Table of Contents
Clayfeld’s Encounter by the Sea
Clayfeld Encompasses a Paradox
Clayfeld Beholds a Miracle
Clayfeld Attends a Seder
Clayfeld Admonishes the Bard
Clayfeld Defines Sublimity
Clayfeld Goes Birding
A Blue Heron Appears to Clayfeld
Clayfeld Observes a Herd of Elk
Clayfeld Organizes His Jokes
Clayfeld among the Fireflies
Clayfeld Takes Flight
Clayfeld Listens to the Aspens
Paean for a Turtle
Clayfeld’s Vampire Fantasy
Clayfeld on Jury Duty
Clayfeld Throws His Hat into the Ring
Clayfeld Reading by the Fire
Clayfeld Grieves for Annie
Clayfeld Addresses His Father
Drifting and Gliding
Clayfeld Thinks about Women
Clayfeld Contends with Entropy
Clayfeld in the Rain
Humming in the Air
Clayfeld Embellishes a Willow Tree
Clayfeld’s Farewell Epistle to Bob Pack
Epilogue: Swan River in October