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Editorial Reviews


“[Sleigh's] command of technique is impeccable. . . . Sleigh has been publishing formidable poetry for almost thirty years, and among American poets of his generation there is no one better. . . . Army Cats is nothing less than a triumph.” ―David Wojahn, Tikkun

“As he moves with masterly control from section to section, style to style, yet pulling along a constant narrative thread, Sleigh shows just how accomplished he is.” ―Library Journal

“The best work in Sleigh's eighth collection continues his effort to use the fruits of civilization to confront the violence and destruction of our time. . . . [his] poems of war provide a shocking clarity.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Sleigh's energy, precision, and unflagging desire to find connection often color the poems. . . . The exactitude with which Sleigh is able to convey specific images and emotions imbues the work in Army Cats with a sense of clarity amid chaos, which in itself is a survival act.” ―American Poet

“At many turns, Sleigh undermines or interrogates the lyricism that propels these poems until the truths that he arrives at feel solid and real. His voice is trustworthy and at the same time unexpected--a perfect combination of effects that often left me, for one, happily quizzical and eager to reread. . . . Army Cats is a dynamic book in which Sleigh sets down his own wrestling with identity, and we are captivated by the multiplicity of selves that emerges.” ―Kenyon Review

“Tom Sleigh's poetry is hard-earned and well founded. I greatly admire the way it refuses to cut emotional corners and yet achieves a sense of lyric absolution.” ―Seamus Heaney on Tom Sleigh

“Sleigh is nearly as prodigal with his gifts as Yeats.” ―The New York Times Book Review on Tom Sleigh

“All those things we'd rather not hear about--war, disease, physical and moral corruption, the nightmare of family, the beauty and heartbreak of love--we hear about in the poems, plays, and essays of Tom Sleigh. The wonder of his work is that no matter the subject, the writing is singular, finished, and--even when unbearable--impossible to ignore. In the midst of the mess we have made of the world, his voice is calm, measured, intelligent, and at times even playful; he is becoming our Jonathan Swift.” ―J. D. McClatchy, judge's statement for the John Updike Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters on Tom Sleigh

About the Author

Tom Sleigh is the author of seven poetry collections, including Space Walk, which received the 2008 Kingsley Tufts Award. He is also a playwright, a translator, and the author of a collection of essays, Interview with a Ghost. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (May 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555975836
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555975838
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,381,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Negative Capability on May 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
Tom Sleigh's new book meets the political and spiritual complexities of the contemporary world head-on. This book is among his best, nobody writes like he does, with as much formal skill, intelligence, and directness of feeling.

What can you say about war and politics that hasn't already been said? Sleigh's intelligence is formidable, and in these poems he avoids the usual clichés that go hand in hand with writing about war and violence--the poems about war in the first section aren't "war poems," in any conventional sense: the poems are canny, sly approaches to war's carnage and history; they place the speaker (and in some sense, the reader) in relation to the violence witnessed without making claims that go beyond what his own senses can verify. What I find most effective and interesting is the way he places the violence in a historical context: see Army Cats--where the poem travels away from the military base in Sidon where the speaker observes:

Cats in the tanks' squat shadows lounging.
Or sleeping curled up under gun turrets.
Hundreds of them sniffing or licking
long hind legs stuck into the air,

and ends here:

And then I remember the ancient archers
frozen between reverence and necessity--

who stare down the enemy, barbarians,
as it's told, who nailed sacred cats to their shields,
knowing their foes outraged in their piety
would throw down their bows and wail like kittens.

He avoids reducing war to a simplistic set of conventions, but has found a new language to express the complexity of the people and situations he writes about. He overturns the whole notion of "witness poetry" in "Reporter," and the sly and funny (and weird!
Read more ›
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Robinson on May 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
Army Cats is an apt title for Sleigh's new collection. It moves like a cat: often quiet, confident, but capable of suddenly transforming into something terrifying or ecstatic. The book begins with war, or more properly the fallout and destruction of war. From cats under old broken down tanks, to orphaned refugees, to the more immediate: "You can hear the aftershock still echoing / in sun slanting through scorched mortar / piled higher than my head. I keep straying // into forbidden zones, body on top of body / hurled about in mock orgy." But Army cats is not content to remain there, to leave such horrors disconnected from the rest of human experience, both the familiar and the remote. An emotional arc is established through disparate locations and scenes. After wandering through bombed out rubble, we find ourselves in outerspace. In "For a Spacesuit Set Adrift,": "Under the starflood / where the flood of earth confronts her, / tiny, unmoored, drifting upside down, / the ocean's pupil peers into her helmet's faceplate:"

We return to earth to find drug overdoses, complicated romances ("For him, she can't not be her," ) and childhood memories. In individual poems, there are incredible leaps through time and space, sometimes happening over a single line break as in the wonderfully lyric "Round,": "somebody can't read the menu, can't find his glasses, / can't remember most mornings his best friends' names-- / somebody's racing just ahead of what it means to be 'it,' / porch lights coming on, trees jumping out at him..."

This is poetry at its best: slightly feral at heart, mangy even, but impossibly elegant by design. "There are days the whole world gets down on all fours; / if you're twenty or sixty, you'd do it in an alley, / bodies thrown together--"

Sleigh is one of the great contemporary poets. You will not be disappointed.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By CB on May 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book was quietly moving, which is how you know it's going to last. If you are a writer, this collection will make you want to write. If you have followed Tom Sleigh's career, this fits perfectly into his repertoire, but it does not turn any tired tricks. If you are new to poetry, he is as accessible and open as any poet today. This collection will challenge you, forcing you to rewire words and images you thought you knew by heart. Read and reread this book.
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