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Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction

John T. Irwin, General Editor

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

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Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction

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The Old and the Lost

Collected Stories

Glenn Blake

"I was born in a land of bayous, raised between rivers," Glenn Blake writes. "There is a place in Southeast Texas where two rivers meet and become one. There is a long bridge over these waters, and as you drive across, you can look to the south and see where the Old River and the Lost River become the Old and the Lost. You can look out as far as you can see and watch this wide water become the bay."

These fourteen stories are set in the swamps, bayous, and sloughs of Southeast Texas, a region that is subsiding—sinking inches every year. The characters who inhabit Blake’s haunting landscape—awash in their own worlds, adrift in their own lives—struggle to salvage what they can of their hopes and dreams from the encroaching tides.

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Pure Products of America, Inc.

A Narrative Poem

John Bricuth

This propulsive narrative poem tells the extended story of the popular born-again televangelist Ray Bob Elray—better known to all his fans as Big Bubba—his twin sons, Nick and Jesse, and his niece and adopted daughter, Donna. The comic tragedy of Big Bubba’s family begins to unfold when he is interviewed by an old friend, country radio disc jockey Charlie Printwhistle. Bubba has come to Waco, Texas, to preach a revival, but soon reveals to Charlie much about his complicated relationship with his family, his ambitions for the ministry, his faith healing, and his most recent venture with Pure Products of America, Inc., which produces and endorses anything “pure,” from Bibles to jelly preserves—for a “whopper” of a fee, of course. Structured as a verse play of two acts composed of three scenes each, Pure Products of America, Inc., follows the unwinding of Bubba’s legacy as his heirs fall out and his already slippery relationship with religion is tested by genuine grief. Along the way, master poet John Bricuth treats readers to a sly, sarcastic—and sometimes deeply moving—look at storytelling, old-time religion, and the American way.

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Return Fire

stories by Glenn Blake

“I was born in a land of bayous, raised between rivers,” writes Glenn Blake in his latest collection of short stories. “There is a place in Southeast Texas where two rivers meet and become one. There is a long bridge over these waters, and as you drive across, you can look to the south and see where the Old River and the Lost River become the Old and the Lost. You can look out as far as you can see and watch this wide water become the bay.” The stories in Return Fire are set in the swamps, bayous, and sloughs of Southeast Texas, a region that is subsiding—sinking inches every year beneath the encroaching tides. The characters who inhabit Blake’s Southern landscape struggle to salvage what they can of their hopes and dreams. They are the walking wounded—cautious, crippled, capable of any act. Magnolias, water, mescal, stars, and fire return again and again in these seven sparse—yet tightly written—vignettes.

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Shadow Traffic

stories by Richard Burgin

The New York Times Book Review has praised Richard Burgin’s stories as “eerily funny . . . dexterous . . . too haunting to be easily forgotten,” while the Philadelphia Inquirer calls him “one of America’s most distinctive storytellers . . . no one of his generation reports the contemporary war between the sexes with more devastating wit and accuracy.” Now, in Shadow Traffic, his seventh collection of stories, five-time Pushcart Prize winner Richard Burgin gives us his most incisive, witty, and daring collection to date as he explores the mysteries of love and identity, ambition and crime, and our ceaseless, if ambivalent, quest for truth. In “Memorial Day” an aging man at a public swimming pool recalls a brief but momentous affair he had with a young British woman in London thirty years ago and the paradoxical role his adored but recently deceased father played in it. In the highly suspenseful “Memo and Oblivion,” set in the near future in New York, two rival drug organizations engage in a dangerous battle for supremacy—one promoting a pill that increases memory exponentially, the other a pill that dramatically eliminates memory. “The Interview” centers on a B-movie starlet married to a much older and more famous director and her tragic yet comic interview with an ambitious but conflicted young reporter. Shadow Traffic justifies the New York Times’ claim that Burgin offers “characters of such variety that no generalizations about them can apply” and why the Boston Globe concluded that “Burgin’s tales capture the strangeness of a world that is simultaneously frightening and reassuring, and in the contemporary American short story nothing quite resembles his singular voice.” Praise for Richard Burgin "Burgin writes crisp and intelligent dialogue and description, and he handles disconcerting situations with deadpan ease . . . His characters—alone, alienated, desolate, and desperate—come alive on the page."—Publishers Weekly "Burgin is the poet laureate of loneliness and longing, writing economically, with humor and exquisite attention to interior monologues."—Philadelphia Inquirer "Burgin skates along the edge of realism and dark fantasy in fiction so supremely well made that all manner of fancy and menace is readily ingested."—Booklist "A writer at once elegant and disturbing, Burgin is among our finest artists of love at its most desperate."—Chicago Tribune "Burgin, in these engaging, haunted stories of obsession and misplaced, misguided affection, offers the reader both comedy and pathos, as if God is a comedian and humans are the punch line."—American Book Review "Burgin's prose is invigorating. Bravely and imaginatively, he characterizes that feeling of being adrift in a consumer-driven society and is particularly astute and funny dealing with the male viewpoint."—Review of Contemporary Fiction

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Signs & Wonders

poems by Charles Martin

Signs is a noun (as in DO NOT DISTURB); Wonders (as in "with furrowed brows"), a verb. The couplet that leads into Charles Martin's fifth collection of richly inventive poems suggests that the world is to be read into and wondered over. The signs in this new work from the prize-winning American poet of formal brilliance and darkly comic sensibility are as stark as the one on a cage at the zoo that says ENDANGERED SPECIES, as surprising as those that announce the return of irony, and as enigmatic as a single word carved on a tombstone. Renowned for his translations of Ovid's Metamorphoses and the poems of Catullus, Martin brings the perspective of history to bear on the stuff of contemporary life.

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That Swing

Poems, 2008–2016

X. J. Kennedy

In this, his ninth book of poetry, lyric master X. J. Kennedy regales his readers with engaging rhythm fittingly signaled by the book’s title, which echoes Duke Ellington’s jazz classic "It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)." Kennedy’s poems, infused with verve and surprise, are by turns irresistibly funny and sharply insightful about life in America.

Some poems are personal recollections of childhood and growing up, as in "My Mother Consigns to the Flames My Trove of Comic Books." "Thomas Hardy’s Obsequies" tells the bizarre true account of the literary giant’s burial. Other poems portray memorable characters, from Jane Austen ("Jane Austen Drives to Alton in Her Donkey Trap") to a giant land tortoise ("Lonesome George") to a slow-witted man hired to cook for a nudist colony ("Pudge Wescott"). Kennedy is a storyteller of the first order, relating tales of travel to far-reaching places, from the Galápagos Islands and Tiananmen Square to the hectic back streets of Bamako, Mali. This wise and clever book is rounded out with adept translations of work by Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, Arthur Rimbaud, and others.

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The View We're Granted

poems by Peter Filkins

In the pivotal poem “Marking Time,” which appears almost exactly halfway through Peter Filkins’s fourth collection of poetry, the speaker reflects on the death of a sibling and how time is marked by our memories. These memories, these moments—whether spent contemplating a painting by Vermeer or the simple toss of a bean bag—ultimately shape who we are. “Yet you are with me here, with me here again, / where neither that moon nor you exist, but live / tethered to this memory composed of words.” These are poems unafraid to be graceful and engaging. They attain an assurance and stability rare in contemporary poetry, while their careful balance of sadness and joy reminds the reader of the difficult negotiations we make in life.

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