Configurations: New & Selected Poems, 1958–1998

Clarence Major

This substantial volume, half of which is comprised of new and previously uncollected work, represents the first retrospective of novelist, anthologist, and poet Clarence Major’s forty-year writing career. Informed by topics as diverse as racism, painting, travel, music, sexuality, and mythology, Major’s poems reflect a love for the language which is infectious.

ISBN: 9781556590900

Format: Paperback

About the Author

Clarence Major is a prize-winning painter, novelist, and poet whose first poetry collection, Swallow the Lake, won the National Council on the Arts Award in 1970. Author of fifteen books of poetry, Major was a 1999 finalist for the National Book Award for Configurations: New and Selected Poems 1958–1998. Among his other awards are the PEN Oakland/Reginald Lockett Lifetime Achievement Award and the Stephen Henderson Award. He is a contributor to The New Yorker, Harvard Review, Ploughshares, The Literary Review, …

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“Witty, angry, sensual, and blue, Major writes in a variety of personae, travels back and forth in time, and circles the globe from the South Side of Chicago to the French countryside, from Mali to Mexico. Appreciation for this multitalented writer is on the rise… Major’s spare, expertly constructed poems are like ladders luring readers away from the heavily trod, shadowy ground up into clear air, an ascent that places all the quick changes of the heart and mind into sharp perspective.” —Booklist

“A delightful exception to normally superfluous or bloated ‘new & selecteds’… This collection should render this prolific novelist, poet, and anthologist eminently readable and teachable… Major is a master of everyday language and textual fine-tuning.” —Publishers Weekly

“Line by line, [Clarence Major’s] poems insist upon their own integrity, driven on by music, equally inspired by blues and jazz as they are by the Cantos of Ezra Pound.” —American Poet

“There is much in Configurations: New and Selected Poems that charms the spirit and keeps hope alive.” —Contemporary Poetry Review

“Clarence Major offers an astonishing variety of lyricism in his newest volume, Configurations.” —Rocky Mountain News

“[Major’s] poems have been surprising us for almost four decades… A timely and significant publication… Reading Configurations is like visiting a favorite museum and discovering that, seemingly overnight, a new wing the size of the original edifice has been added.” —Poetry Project Newsletter

“Clarence Major writes poetry with the resistant, angular surface of tumbled brick. As if the poem has been literally smashed. An improvisational, jazz-like quality.” —Kirkus Reviews


National Book Award for Poetry finalist, 1999