About the Book
From the MacArthur "Genius" Grant and Kingsley Tufts Award winner Campbell McGrath, an electric new collection of poetry in the tradition of Whitman, which asks us to love what lasts amid the detritus of American pop culture. Poetry and the World In the world of some poets there are no Cheerios or Poptarts, no hot dogs tumbling purgatorially on greasy rollers, only chestnuts and pomegranates, the smell of freshly baked bread, summer vegetables in red wine, simmering. In the world of some poets lucid stars illumine lovers waltzing with long-necked swans in fields flush with wildflowers and waving grasses, there are no windowless classrooms, no bare, dangling bulbs, no anxious corridors of fluorescent tubes. In the world of some poets there is no money and no need to earn it, no health insurance, no green cards, no unceremonious toil. And how can we believe in that world when the man who must clean up after the reading waits impatiently outside the door in his putty-colored service uniform, and the cubes of cheese at the reception taste like ashes licked from a bicycle chain, when the desk-tops and mostly-empty seats have been inscribed with gutter syllabics by ballpoint pens gripped tight as chisels, and the few remaining students are green as convalescents narcotized by apathy? But-that's alright. Poetry can handle it. Poetry is a capacious vessel, with no limits to its plasticity, no end to the thoughts and feelings it can accommodate, no restrictions upon the imaginings it can bend through language into being. Poetry is not the world. We cannot breathe its atmosphere, we cannot live there, but we can visit, like sponge divers in bulbous copper helmets come to claim some small portion of the miraculous. And when we leave we must remember not to surface too rapidly, to turn off the lights in the auditorium and lock the office door-there have been thefts at the university in recent weeks. We must remember not to take the bridge still under construction, always under construction, to stop on the causeway for gas and pick up a pack of gum at the register, and a bottle of water, and a little sack of plantain chips, their salt a kind of poem, driving home. With IN THE KINGDOM OF THE SEA MONKEYS, McGrath returns to the landscapes and forms that he does best: long, shapely poems beautifully lineated, which balance an ironic romanticism with a deeply felt sense of the merciless work of time. In poems such as MINNEAPOLIS or SHOPPING FOR POMEGRANATES AT WAL-MART ON NEW YEAR'S DAY, McGrath teases out the tension between the banality of the everyday and the cosmic-comical mystery lurking at its edges. Whether he's exploring the slow decline of American cities, the flashing beauty of a smog saturated sunset, or the extra-mortal lifespan of books, McGrath writes poems of unusual energy, sharply documentary poems deeply engaged with American popular culture and commerce.