This masterful suite of poems takes the reader on an odyssey across the globe–from California to India, Spain to the Greek islands, and on to South America and Southeast Asia. In these poems, Stroud wears his expansive erudition like a comfortable old sweater, slipping from one persona to another but always with an eye and ear trained on the commonplace details that form a poetry one can live by. Setting up a dialectic with the Chinese hermit-poet Cold Mountain (Han Shan), Stroud’s poems move from the elegiac to the comic, the fragmentary to the uncommonly lyrical. Offering no easy solutions and no platitudes, Stroud presents a clarity of language and the tone of everyday speech through which his poetry can be felt.
The First Law of Thermodynamics
He was a good ole boy, and when he died his friends carried out
his final wish—the body was cremated and the ashes stuffed
into shotgun shells. They walked through the woods he loved
and fired aimlessly into the trees—he came down everywhere
in a powdery rain, a pollen of ashes that once was the memory
of a boy walking under trees showering him with leaves.
“One of this or any year’s best… The volume’s crowning achievement is a suite of sixty incandescent six-line poems that illuminate, with the brevity and intensity of the Chinese masters, fugitive moments of the commonplace.” —Star Tribune
“One of the finest collections of poems I’ve read in years—intelligent, sensuous, moving, full of human insight.” —Ploughshares
“Almost every poem joins a deeper intuition of the spiritual significance of living with an almost Biblical sense of the sacredness of the body. One feels in this work not an agenda but a disciplined insistence on attention to the world and a belief in its capacity for revelation.” —Green River Review
“I don’t recall when a poet unknown to me has struck me so deeply. What an achievement. There is a range and amplitude here found among only the very best.” —Jim Harrison