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ISBN 978-1-949966-77-0 68 pages $15.00
Precision and ardor. The blunt grace of compression. These qualities give David Thorburn’s Knots a distinctive authority. The title poem summons—and undoes—the intricate, oppressive, persistent and legendary bonds of patriarchal lore.
David Thorburn’s poems take the reader into the heart of the human condition—its disappointments, pain, love and cruelty. Memorable poems about the poet’s seaman father, a man of knots, rigging and contradiction, shape the book. Throughout, Thorburn’s magnetic and tight poems disclose and loosen the knots—as real as those made of rope— in all of us.
I am obliged to perform in complete darkness, Berryman writes, operations of great delicacy / on myself. In his tersely lyrical poems, David Thorburn operates on American masculinity, from within its own terms. He knows and praises its knots and the names of its knots and tools. And he knows texts and stories and words, which are his own tools. These poems are raw, affectionate, powerful, blunt, elegiac and downright joyous. I admire them very much.
David Thorburn tells us “there is no calculus for the half-life of stories” in poems where “what is lost, what retrieved” can’t be and probably shouldn’t be added up. “If you marked a coin” and released it to “the oozy waters of finance,” Thorburn asks, “would you expect it to return, change from the candyman or grocer?” No, his book says, life doesn’t give back change for what we spend it on, just the mystery, the wonder, of transformation. These lyrical poems read like Ovid at eye level: Hecuba and Jackie Gleason; the laugh and grace of eroticism shared by a married couple; Don Quixote and an instruction sheet for the Papco flaring tool. The knots that bind in Thorburn’s book are familial, historical, mythic: they embrace and are embraced by something very like a whispered love song.
David Thorburn has been a teacher of literature for 55 years. He was born in Manhattan and grew up in an old farmhouse in Randolph, New Jersey before it became a suburb. He’s written a book on Joseph Conrad and many essays and reviews on literature and media. Knots is his first book of poetry.