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Background Radiation (Salt Modern Poets S) Paperback – January 7, 2007

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Product Details

  • Series: Salt Modern Poets S
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Salt Publishing (January 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844712931
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844712939
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,624,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"The emotional resonance of these poems is undeniable, powerful, and unsettling. This is an amazing book." -- Bin Ramke

"This latest collection extends the range of his work considerably, with poems of dark wit that reveal a busy intelligence..." -- Jay Parini

About the Author

Henry Hart was born in 1954. He has published critical studies of Seamus Heaney, Robert Lowell, and Geoffrey Hill. His biography, James Dickey: The World as a Lie, was the runner-up for the Southern Book Critics' Circle Award in 2000. He has published two books of poetry and continues to work on Verse magazine (he was one of the founders of the magazine; he is now managing editor). Hart is currently editing the post-WW II volume of the Thomson Anthology of American Literature. He teaches English at the College of William and Mary.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Hall on March 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
The immediate pleasure of Background Radiation is the strength-- "The stink of ox dung billows from sledge pulls"-- and ingenuity-- "I waited until dawn set a copper penny on the track"-- of the language.

The poems struggle with the urge to make sense of the often cryptic world, the search for answers and meanings. And at the same time, Henry Hart recognizes the opposing desire to make the world and himself indecipherable, as a form of self-protection or control.

The poems negotiate this tension, with Hart using his careful control of language to alternately (and artfully) reveal and re-codify aspects of the world around him.

Occasionally, the poems fall too easily or too suddenly into cryptic statements, but the potential that is frustrated on those few occasions is more than made up for on others.

For instance, in the face of an inscrutable world, the poems are able to deliver wonderfully condensed, psychological insight-- "The trashy images were history, recyclable,/ altering our sense of immediate ends."

We watch as Hart, with a sense of wonder and a sense of humor, follows his poetic desire to name and interact with the world around him, wanting his breath to "crawl like an invisible tongue past guards,/ touch everything in its path for the last time."

He can evoke powerful (and culturally resonant) emotion with a simple, unique description: "New York had lost its two front teeth." Or he can do it with grand, apocalyptic language, as when, from the eye of a donkey in Baghdad, he tells us: "I will ask the incinerated reeds how it got this way/ why it goes on forever how it will end"

Background Radiation is a fascinating read from a very talented poet. Highly recommended.
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