Practical Gods is the eighth collection by Carl Dennis, a critically acclaimed poet and recent winner of one of the most prestigious poetry awards, the Ruth Lilly Prize. Carl Dennis has won acclaim for "wise, original, and often deeply moving" poems that "ease the reader out of accustomed modes of seeing and perceiving" (The New York Times). Many of the poems in this new book involve an attempt to enter into dialogue with pagan and biblical perspectives, to throw light on ordinary experience through metaphor borrowed from religious myth and to translate religious myth into secular terms. While making no claims to put us in touch with some ultimate reality, these clear, precise, sensitive poems help us to pay homage to the everyday household gods that are easy to ignore, the gods that sustain life and make it rewarding.
- Pulitzer Prize
Dennis's (Ranking the Wishes) eighth book of poems continues his longstanding meditative project: long, elaborate free-verse sentences amble down odd paths of thoughts, past forested landscapes, furniture, paintings and solitary men, to end up with NPR-like reflections on human life. "Today I seem to be focusing on my wish to sand/ And stain and varnish my bookcase, a job that a monk/ Who specializes in repetition might embrace as a ritual," one poem muses; another offers "the comfort of familiar shadows/ But not the glory of leading those shadows/ Out of the flickering dark into the living present." Dennis's warm, accessible approach has garnered him several awards (most recently a big prize from Poetry magazine); it should please devotees of Stephen Dunn, or even of Raymond Carver, whose regretful musings suffuse the volume-closing "The God Who Loves You." Praising "the light touch of [Vermeer's] brush on canvas," or saying, "there's nothing wrong with imagining missions," Dennis can end up saccharine or predictable. At his best, though, Dennis can be far stranger, and funnier, than that; his attractive webs of phrases and sentences can take on a zigzag aspect almost akin to Ashbery. And his best poems make space not just for wise speculations but for genuine oddities, from Utica, N.Y., to "a senior coach like Mr. Ruggieri," to homely, handy extended metaphors: "The past we need is only a kind of currency/ Stamped in red with the date of this day."
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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October 08, 2001
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