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Collected Poems, 1954-2004
Cover of Collected Poems, 1954-2004
Collected Poems, 1954-2004
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Irving Feldman is a master chronicler of our collective experience and an overlooked treasure of American poetry. Feldman's rich body of work exhibits his mastery of language from the biblical to the conversational, his Yiddish flair for the comic, his profound social insight and lucidity. He writes about everything from the Coney Island days of his childhood
and his bohemian years in postwar New York to the art of Picasso and George Segal, from the Holocaust to its aftermath--in narrative and dramatic poems and personal lyrics that are by turns ardent, witty, biting, ecstatic, and heartbreaking.

Long a favorite among his fellow poets (John Hollander has called his work "amazing in its moral intensity"), Feldman has remained true to the soul's deepest callings:

I have questioned myself aloud
at night in a voice I did not
recognize, hurried and
disobedient, hardly brighter.
What have I kept? Nothing.
Not bread or the bread-word.
What have I offered? Rebel
in the kingdom, my gift
has wanted a grace.

This glorious gathering of poems displays Feldman's entire career in all its variety and passion, and confirms his place among the great poets of our time.

From the Hardcover edition.
Irving Feldman is a master chronicler of our collective experience and an overlooked treasure of American poetry. Feldman's rich body of work exhibits his mastery of language from the biblical to the conversational, his Yiddish flair for the comic, his profound social insight and lucidity. He writes about everything from the Coney Island days of his childhood
and his bohemian years in postwar New York to the art of Picasso and George Segal, from the Holocaust to its aftermath--in narrative and dramatic poems and personal lyrics that are by turns ardent, witty, biting, ecstatic, and heartbreaking.

Long a favorite among his fellow poets (John Hollander has called his work "amazing in its moral intensity"), Feldman has remained true to the soul's deepest callings:

I have questioned myself aloud
at night in a voice I did not
recognize, hurried and
disobedient, hardly brighter.
What have I kept? Nothing.
Not bread or the bread-word.
What have I offered? Rebel
in the kingdom, my gift
has wanted a grace.

This glorious gathering of poems displays Feldman's entire career in all its variety and passion, and confirms his place among the great poets of our time.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Recommended for you

Excerpts-
  • From the book "The Prophet"

    I am your stone. I seek the center.
    Lean back, bend over, I know one way.
    You cannot move. I weigh. I weigh.
    I am your doom. Your city shall not burn.
    The flood has gone by, the fever passed.
    Get home. Empty the square
    As your hearts are empty. Only I am there.
    Everywhere. I bring all things down.

    Your eyes wander to the ground.
    You yearn for density, the solid,
    You want blocks, you want the hardest matter:
    Clay will not do; granite, not marble.
    Your souls crave no room. All is brought together.
    You shall be as stone and wedge yourselves down.
    Where all things are one.



    "Non-Being"

    And all about him rock—with heavy grayness as of a sigh.
    And yet Prometheus saw the sardonic humor of the place,
    How the mountains tilted back their heads against the sky
    And twisted out a smile; a smile passed on his face.

    After a thousand years he thought he saw the joke,
    And began, almost nostalgically, to giggle; even his joints
    Felt a certain lightness, it took so little to provoke
    A knee, merely, say, the wryness of two opposing points.

    Another aeon passed and he laughed outright;
    He felt himself, in fact, the universal satirist,
    The final glittering of the rictus of cosmic spite.
    So nothing really mattered; and his mirth bubbled off in mist.

    What terrible cackle bounds blatant through the vale?
    O come to the mountain and see a suit of clothes on a nail!



    "Arabian Night"

    This place, these women talking after dinner,
    before they rise to bless goodnight, I should
    know them, their stories of the past: sorrows,
    children, the dead; those very tales, yes!
    sisters, mother, aunt, still as they were,
    at the white table in the darkening room
    —genies of familial memory, who,
    convened, becalmed, by nearness and the night,
    rub from a boy's tender pride or impudence,
    or cousin's guile, or uncles' merriment
    —so innocent, so unredeemed!—
    a steady, timid spell against the night.

    And I who sit like night at the window
    and cannot enter except I become a child
    —that light has gone, they cannot conjure him,
    not for all their burnished hearts' lamp!

    In other lands, striving in chains, he builds
    but cannot grow; and I have come in his stead.
    And here one is, Time's prosaic Sinbad
    returned from dull adventures in the years,
    ancient changeling, impostor of a life,
    —my treasure flotsam, debased, befouled,
    I cannot ransom forth the light, or save
    this drifted past abandoned on a hill.

    Become the porter of my history,
    what can I do but toss this black bag down,
    share the relics I've got, knock, return,
    like any prodigal—holding out
    tarnished gifts to strangers: some guilt,
    merely sentimental; a little childish loyalty;
    a little useless pity.
About the Author-
  • Irving Feldman was born in Brooklyn in 1928. He was educated at the City College of New York and at Columbia University. He has taught for many years and is currently Distinguished Professor of English at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Feldman's collections of poetry include Beautiful False Things; The Life and Letters; All of Us Here, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; New and Selected Poems; Leaping Clear and The Pripet Marshes, both National Book Award finalists; and Works and Days, winner of the Jewish Book Council's Kovner Poetry Prize. Feldman has received awards and grants from many institutions, including the Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. He lives in Buffalo, New York.

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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

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Irving Feldman
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