From Three at 4:43
And here comes my friend, limping on
his heavy boot, the heel come off. A cobbler’s shop
appears, and I buy the black nails, the dwarf’s hammer, glue and strapping.
I work hard on it, bending there
until he speaks and walks on.
But as he is dead, his voice and step
make no sound.
In his third book of poems, David Gewanter takes on wartime America, showing our personal costs and inextricable complicities. The constructs of our social lives, the conventions of our political values, the ambitions of our private fantasies—all these collide comically and tragically. Here, the far right marries the far left, and the sacred is undone by the profane. Gewanter’s ironic vision pulls together details from science, history, philosophy, the disappearing dailies, and the emotional life of an engaged and singular mind into poems on the move with tense rhythms, rich correspondences, and daring hairpin turns. War Bird gives the lie to the shining moral complacencies of the homefront. Unsettling yet radiant, this collection is a book for troubled times, for what Whitman called, in “1861,” our “hurrying, crashing, sad, distracted year.”
88 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2009
“This disciplining, demanding writing itself is enough to recommend David Gewanter’s new collection, as is its no uncertain pursuit of a politics that takes no prisoners. It’s common enough that poetry will use its wisdom to advance an agenda, but War Bird far surpasses that limited goal. The hard edge of its menacing wit, the severe tension of its layered lyricism, the implied magnitude of its statement combine to effect a moral force. This is poetry in a language that matters.”
"The poems are funny, vicious, and swirling. Many are politically motivated, their ironic language lobbying for connections between strata of meanings. How do politics and history and culture sound in the subjective, as something spoken by the poet who cares about the texture of language, the privileged placement of sound and sense, above a layer of "meaning?" Gewanter’s history feels personal, a history he creates consciously in the present, as a preparation for the future."
Sean Enright | Tikkun
"Gewanter’s work is implicitly a respect for the past, all of ours, the grief is there, the truth not always pretty; it is solemnity belied by humor, always humor keeping us reading. . . . In this book the peaks of history are attacked from all angles, sometimes with dash, sometimes more vulnerably. Gewanter’s facets are eclectic and buoyant inventions. He concocts combinations that dare us to be happy so we will not be destroyed by his truth. This is when humor becomes craft. It lifts us up while slapping us down. David Gewanter is tortured by love for the world. His remorse for that same world summarizes his poems. He is Mick Jagger and Seamus Heaney in a style well achieved, original and true."
Grace Cavalieri | Monterrat Review
Table of Contents
The Old Parables
I. Day Book
In again Out again
Hamlet of Merano: The Lotus Eaters
Baudelaire’s Day Book
The Giants’ Causeway
Book of the Blurbers
Three at 4:43
1972: The Battery
II. American Incognito
Michelangelo: Three Poems in Black
Surrey: Walled Garden
Against the Grain
Cook at Maui
III. War Bird
War Bird: A Journal
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