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T O T E M

totem.jpeg

APR/Honickman First Book Prize 2007


2006 • poetry • paper • 96 pages • $14.00 • 978-0-9776395-3-3

Purchase: Copper Canyon Press • Amazon • IndieBound

In his youth, Gregory Pardlo heard stories of factory hours and picket lines from his father; in the bars, clubs, and on the radio he listened to jazz and blues, the rhythms, beats, and aspirations of which all of which seep into his poems. Pardlo creates work that is deeply autobiographical, drifting between childhood and adult life. He moves between and among modes, seamlessly from art analysis to sneakers hung over the telephone lines. Deeply rooted in a blue-collar world, he produces snapshots of a life that is so specific it becomes universal.

P R A I S E   F O R   T O T E M

"Pure and plain, Gregory Pardlo is an American metaphysician. His luxuriant mind is discursive, drawing on many intellectual and cultural traditions, and for him, the world is singularly and greatest understood at its figurative core. You will enjoy best those poems which reveal the intricate journeys by which he fabrics an argument, not with himself, but with the rich legacy of conversations about kinship, history, art, and poetry from which he emerges, and always on top. This is a poetry whose reach will break you and whose achievement goes beyond the accidental discoveries of an eccentric personality -- and thus arrives a poet whose vision is so wide, he'll have readers in the distant future, contemplating his moral and formal choices relative to their own." - Major Jackson

"Gregory Pardlo’s first book, Totem, is a masterpiece of subjectivity, all qualia and stunning epithets, big feelings shaded with doubts, regrets, hesitations and guilt. It is a book with its headphones on, narrating the most amazing music, almost never letting you hear it. Where objectivist poetry vaporizes its big feelings in people-free landscapes, Pardlo’s subjectivist poetry feels all its feelings right up to the border of the interpersonal, and no further." - Jordan Davis in the Constant Critic, 2008

"Pardlo is dealing with a subject whose politics are as complicated and innate to the human experience as the politics Auden wrote about during World War II. Pardlo comes to an argument, but not a conclusion, and it's that limbo that seems to require this particular diction of his. These are serious poems that warrant and reward a serious reading." - Kent Shaw in his blog lots and lots of neat, 2009

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